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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.

"Indeed."

"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.

Chapter Text

Precious Illusions

 


 

You'll complete me right?
Then my life can finally begin
I'll be worthy right?
Only when you realize the gem I am?

 


Emma tapped her pen impatiently as the man on the phone complained about the squirrels in his yard. Apparently there were too many and he thought they were plotting against him. Emma douted it was true, but crazier things had happened in this town, so she figured she should at least hear him out.

It was almost six and she had to meet Henry at the diner soon. He was working on a project with a few of his classmates so they'd agreed to meet at the dine for their weekly dinner out. It had become a bit of a tradition during their time in New York City. Once a week they'd go out to the diner near their apartment and eat greasy, bad food. Emma supposed it was a remnant of their time together at Granny's that led them there, so they'd simply continued on.

Emma finally managed to get off the phone after promising to send someone out. She tried to organize the piles of paperwork that were piling up on her desk but quickly gave up. It could wait until tomorrow. She made a quick note for the night shift about the squirrels and stood up.

The station was much better staffed after their second stint in the enchanted forest. Many of the men who'd been in the royal guard had taken up spots as deputies, along with a few women who'd wanted to be in the guard. Most of them were competent and did their jobs well.

Emma was grateful she could rely on them to go out in the field when she wasn't up to it. There was a time when Emma couldn't imagine herself stuck behind a desk, but lately she had little patience for the citizens of Storybrooke. She'd seen the way they'd acted in the Enchanted Forest and she didn't like it. They were often quick to anger and slow to understanding or forgiveness.

Emma thought that if she, of all people, she and her family who had lost so much time, could forgive Regina, they could too. After all, while they'd been separated from their families, they hadn't grown. They could pick up where they left off. Emma was the one who'd grown up without parents, who'd had to give her son away. Sure, Regina had taken everyone from their homes, but Emma thought the advances of modern plumbing and television was worth losing your family shack.

Emma was pulling on her jacket as the night patrol arrived. Tonight a squat man named Jasper was working. Emma had been dubious of Jasper's ability to do the job at first, he didn't seem to be in the best of shape. But Jasper had quickly proven to be one of the more capable deputies.

"Evenin' Sheriff," Jasper greeted her.

"Hey Jasper. I left a report on your desk. Mr. Harvey is concerned about the squirrels in his yard, so I promised him someone would stop by and check it out" Emma said.

"Oh joy," Jasper sighed.

"I'm sure it's nothing, so I wouldn't waste too much time there. Other than that it's been pretty quiet."

"Good, the Missus kept me pretty busy at the homestead today."

"Just don't fall asleep on the job," Emma smiled.

Jasper nodded and Emma headed out of the station. She would just make it to the diner on time. She climbed into her bug and headed toward Granny's. Emma had been surprised to find the bug still in possession when she regained her memory. She'd been sure Regina's implanted memories would have had her trade it for something better as soon as possible.

All her wonderful memories had been the source of much confusion on Emma's part. The memories of Henry running in the park, and birthdays, holidays, Henry learning how to ride a bike, playing with toys, every year watch him growing into a young man, all so vivid and real. Emma wondered how they couldn't be true, which led her to wonder if they were in fact, real. If they were Regina's memories of her time with Henry.

Everything had happened so fast when she and Henry had left town. Regina certainly didn't have much time to plan out Emma's new life. Emma was almost certain they were Regina's memories, but couldn't figure out how to ask. Or maybe apologize for all the trouble she'd caused in their relationship when she'd first arrived in Storybrooke.

Emma had barely considered Regina's feelings when she'd arrived. She'd only been concerned about the unhappy son she'd just been reunited with and his obsession with fairy tales. But now that she'd had some time and some experience parenting the smart, impetuous boy, she'd started to understand Regina's point of view.

Henry was often far too trusting for his own good. And to Regina, Emma had been a stranger. Regina's only knowledge of the blonde was Henry's assertion that she was the young woman who had given him up. And once Sydney had dug into her past, Emma had been painted as a transient criminal. While Emma knew she was a hardworking person who did her best to track down bail jumpers and live a decent life, on paper, she looked unsavory at best. While Regina's methods may not have been the best way to go about, Emma understood her reluctance to let Emma into Henry's life.

Emma arrived at the diner and parked her bug in an empty spot close to the entrance. She spotted Henry waiting near the entrance and headed toward him.

"Hey kid, why didn't you get us a table," Emma asked.

"Mom's in there with Roland, so I figured I'd just wait for you out here," Henry explained.

Henry hadn't taken much of a liking to Roland, and Emma wasn't sure why. The kid could be a little bratty at times, but then again, most five year olds were. Henry got along well with his young uncle, and his friends younger siblings seemed to love him, so Emma knew it wasn't a general dislike of young children. She shrugged it off for now, her stomach was grumbling.

"Well, I'm here now, so let's get some grub," Emma smiled.

Henry pulled open the door and held it for her. He had certainly grown up a lot in the last couple years. He was a teenager now. Soon he would be driving and going on dates. Even college wasn't that far away. Emma hadn't even been his mother for that long, and soon he would be going away, growing up and leaving home. She had so many memories of her baby boy crying in the night, getting sick, relying on her, and even though she knew they weren't real, it was still hard to watch him growing up sometimes.

Emma and Henry settled into their booth after waving politely at Regina and Roland. Regina knew about their weekly diner tradition, so she simply waved back and refocused on Roland. Ruby quickly appeared at their table to take their orders.

"Hey guys! What can I get for you?" Ruby asked happily.

"I'll have a grilled chicken salad and a small order of fries," Emma replied.

Ruby jotted down Emma's order and turned toward Henry.

"I'll have a double bacon cheeseburger and fries. And can I have extra bacon?" Henry asked.

"Don't you think that's a little much kid?" Emma replied.

"I'm a growing boy!" Henry argued.

"Yeah, but you'll be growing the wrong way if you eat too much crap like that," Emma replied.

"What are you turning into mom, with the health food?" Henry smirked.

Emma smiled at her son, "No, I'm trying to be a responsible parent, and responsible parents don't let their kids eat that much junk. So how about a pass on the extra bacon kid."
"Fine, I'll have a double bacon cheeseburger with the regular amount of bacon, and fries," Henry agreed.

Ruby wrote down Henry's order and headed back to the kitchen. Henry fiddled with the straw in his soda.

"So, how's the project going?" Emma asked.

"Good."

Emma frowned, "Good? That's all I get?"

"It's going fine. Ava decided the poster needed to be jazzed up and Emily thinks we should add some flair to our presentation," Henry said.

"What kind of flair?" Emma asked.

"I don't know, like capes or something. I told her it was a science project, it didn't need flair," Henry replied.

"I've certainly never heard of capes in science. But a bit of flair might be nice. It would separate your project from the rest, at least," Emma laughed.

"It just seems kind of over the top, you know. I mean, I want to win the science fair because our project is the best, not because we had cool pyrotechnics or something," Henry sighed.

"I'm sure the judges aren't going to pick a project just because it looks cool, kid. After all, it's a science fair, not a drama class," Emma assured him.

"I guess."

Further conversation was halted by Ruby appearing with their food. Henry dug into his in only the way a teenage boy can, while Emma picked at her salad. Emma had always been a lover of cheeseburgers, but lately she hadn't had much of an interest in them. She wondered if was a remnant of the implanted memories.

New York Emma had made sure she and Henry ate well. She'd even made home cooked meals most of the time. She had allowed a bit of indulgence on their weekly trips to the diner, but the rest of the time it had been healthy breakfasts and well balanced meals.

As Henry was plowing through his fries, his phone vibrated on the table. Emma watched as he quickly checked the message and replied.

"That was Nicholas, they came up with an idea for the project and they want me to come back over. Do you mind?" Henry asked.

"Be home by 8, you know the rules. Call me if you're going anywhere else," Emma replied.

"Thanks ma, you're the best," Henry smiled.

Emma watched as he grabbed a handful of fries and headed out the door. It looked like she'd be dining by herself. Emma continued to poke at her salad, eating a few small bites.

"Looks like you've been stood up, Miss Swan."
Emma looked up to find Regina standing at her table. Just past the brunette, she could see Roland happily chatting away with Ruby at the counter.

"He seems to be quite taken by Miss Lucas," Regina said.

"Well, Ruby is pretty great," Emma replied.

"Do you mind?" Regina asked, gesturing to Henry's empty seat.

"Go ahead."

Regina slid into the booth in the graceful way only the former queen could. Emma almost laughed. Only Regina could make sliding into a booth at a greasy diner look quite so regal.

Regina studied the plate before, "Still letting Henry eat this horrible food, I see."

"Well, apparently he's a growing boy," Emma replied.

"Which is precisely why he should eat nutritious food, not this greasy mess."

"We do pretty well most of the time. Dinner out is kind of our junk night," Emma replied.

"You don't seem to be eating much at all, dear," Regina said, gesturing to Emma's salad.

"Yeah, I'm just not hungry at the moment, I guess."

Regina nodded. She was familiar with the blonde's feelings. She looked tired and simply out of sorts. Of course, the difference was that Emma Swan wore her feelings on her sleeve while Regina's were carefully concealed behind layers of bravado and feigned importance.

"Where was Henry rushing off to?" Regina asked, changing the subject.

"Oh, he's working on his science project for the science fair. Apparently there's some disagreement about how much flair is necessary for a science project," Emma explained.

"I wasn't aware flair was necessary at all in science. Science seems to be more fact than flair," Regina said.

"That's what Henry thinks as well," Emma smiled.

Sometimes it was very obvious that despite the memories of raising her son herself, the woman before her had done the hard work. Despite her flaws, Regina had done a wonderful job raising Henry. He was smart, driven, and considerate. All in all, Henry was a great kid, and Emma knew her genes hadn't done all that work.

Emma sighed, "I've been trying to figure out how to bring this up, but it never seems to work into a normal conversation, so I guess I'll just say it…"

Regina braced herself. She and Emma had been much more of a team since returning to Storybrooke, but she knew things weren't perfect. She didn't know what Emma was about to say to her, but she had no expectations that it would be anything good.

"I just wanted to thank you for the memories of Henry," Emma said.

To say Regina was shocked would be an understatement. Of all the things she expected to come out of the blonde's mouth, that was near the bottom of the list. Hell, it probably wasn't even on the list.

"I just…I never got to see Henry grow up. I missed out on so much, and even though I know they aren't my memories, it's nice to see, even if it's through your eyes," Emma continued.

Regina knew she sometimes underestimated the Sheriff's intelligence, but the blonde always managed to surprise her. Emma sounded certain that memories had been Regina's, even though Regina had never told her as much. As much as she had resented Emma in the beginning, Regina had come to realize that Emma simply wanted to be a good mother to Henry, even though she didn't always know what that meant. Emma had never meant to take Henry away from her, only to ensure that Henry was happy and safe.

"Though I'm not sure I appreciate all the health food and clothes that cost more than the apartment I had in Boston," Emma laughed.

Regina smiled, "But you certainly looked much better dear."

Emma couldn't quite explain the blush that threatened to creep up her cheeks at Regina's comment. On some level, Emma knew she was attractive. Men had always been happy to remind her of this in bars and on the occasional street corner. But for some reason, Regina's words held more weight. Perhaps it was because she knew Regina's words were partly in jest, that she wasn't using them for some ulterior motive. Or perhaps it was something else entirely.

"Someone's ready to go home and get in bed," Ruby said, appearing at the table.

A sleeping Roland was cradled in her arms. Regina immediately stood up and relieved the brunette waitress. After maneuvering Roland into her arms, Regina attempted to pull her wallet out of her purse to pay Ruby for the meal. Emma watched her struggle for just a moment.

"Regina, I'll get it."

"Nonsense, if I could just…" Regina attempted to hold Roland still and pull her purse up.

"Regina, seriously, I'll get it," Emma said, resting her hand on Regina's arm.

"Fine. But I will reimburse you," Regina replied.

Emma laughed, "Buy me lunch tomorrow and we'll call it even."

"I suppose I can agree to those terms. I'll see you tomorrow Miss Swan," Regina conceded.

Emma smiled as she watched the brunette carry the small boy out of the diner. She turned back to her table as Ruby slid into the booth across from her and took a bite of the cold fries Henry had left behind.

"Aren't you two chummy," Ruby smirked.

"We're not chummy. We're…friends I guess. We're just trying to do what's best for Henry. And what's best for Henry is parents who can work together and focus on him, not their petty squabbles," Emma said.

"Well look at you, Emma Swan, all grown up and responsible," Ruby said.

"I'm doing my best," Emma sighed.

But sometimes she wondered if her best would ever be good enough.

Chapter Text

Precious Illusions

 


 

But this won't work now the way it once did
And I won't keep it up even though I would love to
Once I know who I'm not then I'll know who I am
But I know I won't keep on playing the victim

 


Henry made it home just before curfew, as usual. Sometimes he skirted the rules, but usually didn't go so far as to break them. All in all, Emma considered herself lucky. Henry was well behaved, he helped around the house, and he always did his homework. He was more put together than Emma ever had been at 14. Hell, he was probably more put together than Emma had been at 20.

They'd watched a few shows together before Henry headed off to bed and Emma settled in for another night of insomnia. When the clock ticked past midnight, Emma gave up on the warmth of her bed. She pulled on her tennis shoes and tied her hair back into a ponytail. Even if a run didn't help her sleep, she could at least get some exercise.

Since her life no longer consisted of running after bad guys or racing all over a small New England town to stop mythical bad guys, Emma had noticed her waist line growing. Or maybe that was just the fact that she was now over 30. Either way, Emma knew she'd need to start trying a bit if she wanted to keep her slim figure.

She slipped out the door and took up a slow jog. Her feet led her in the direction of the pier once again. She briefly wondered if Regina would be there again, but quickly shook off the thought. Regina had a family now. She was happy. She didn't need to run around the town at night because she couldn't sleep. She was happy.

Part of Emma wanted to believe that Regina really was happy with Robin, that Regina had finally found the true lover her mother had ripped from her years ago. Emma wanted to believe that there was redemption like that, that someone who had done the horrible things Regina had could truly be happy. Because if Regina could be happy, it meant that there was some way Emma could be happy as well.

Emma picked up the pace and ran until all she could focus on was the burning in her chest and the pounding of her feet on the pavement. She raced toward the pier, the cool spring air rushing into her lungs.

Emma finally reached the pier and stopped to catch her breath. She fell onto the same bench she had the night before, only she was alone this time. She leaned back against the cool wood and looked up at the stars twinkling in the sky.


Regina had tucked Roland into bed as soon as she'd arrived home. She settled in the den an read for a bit until Robin arrived. He had been out late on patrol around the border. There hadn't been much trouble since they made it back, but they'd set up a patrol just to be safe.

Regina was in the kitchen warming up some dinner when it happened. She'd turned too quickly and knocked a plate on the ground. It shattered, spreading shards of glass all over the floor. Regina hadn't even done it on purpose. She simply waived her hand and restored the plate to it's former glory.

"What in the hell are you doing?"

Regina turned toward the doorway, restored plate in her hand. When she saw the anger on Robin's face, she realized her mistake. Robin hated magic. After it had taken Marian from him, he'd cast it off as evil. In his eyes, magic was nothing but trouble. He wouldn't have it around his son at all. And Regina had just used it in the home she shared with Robin and Roland.

"I'm sorry, I didn't even think…"

"No, you didn't think."

Robin strode toward Regina and pulled the plate from her hand. Regina watched as he tossed the plate on the ground, shattering it again. He grabbed her arm and pushed her to the ground. Bits of glass dug into her hands and knees.

"Now clean it up without using your vile magic," Robin ordered before striding out of the kitchen.

Regina fought back the tears and quickly swept the glass into a pile. She ignored the pain in her hands and knees and retrieved the broom and dustpan and quickly did away with the plate. She got a clean plate out of the cupboard and quickly served Robin his dinner.

Only once Robin was eating his dinner did Regina excuse herself to the bathroom to tend to her wounds. She carefully pulled each piece of glass out of her knee and slathered some antibacterial ointment on it. She repeated the process on her hands. By the time she emerged from the bathroom Robin had finished his dinner and was getting ready for bed.

"Are you coming to bed honey?" he asked.

"I'm going to clean up the dinner dishes first, and maybe throw some laundry in," Regina explained, "I'll be up soon."

Robin smiled sweetly at her and climbed into bed. Regina forced a smile back and slid out of the room.

She probably should have seen the signs when she'd first become involved with him. It wasn't as though she was new to this sort of behavior. Cora had manipulated her for years. And Leopold had exerted his power whenever it was necessary. But Tinkerbelle had told her Robin Hood was her true love, and she couldn't walk away from true love again.

Regina told herself that this was what she deserved. Her true love wasn't meant to be perfect. She had to atone from her sins in some way, and she supposed this was it. Her life simply wasn't meant to be perfect and happy.

Regina quickly washed off Robin's plate and set it in the dishwasher. She put in some detergent and turned it on. Then she headed to the laundry room an picked up a pile of sorted clothes. She loaded them into the washer and turned it on as well. She fought the feelings bubbling up inside her until she was done.

She couldn't bring herself to go upstairs and climb into bed with Robin at that moment. Regina quickly pulled on her shoes and the light jacket she'd hung by the door earlier. She unlocked the front door and slipped out of the house.

She wasn't sure where she was going, she simply walked until saw a familiar blonde leaning back on a bench. It was clear that the blonde hadn't heard her approach. Another point for Storybrooke's law enforcement team.


"It seems we keep meeting like this, Miss Swan," Regina said.

Emma jumped and turned toward Regina.

"Holy shit. You scared the crap out of me," Emma half shouted.

"Terribly sorry dear, I wasn't aware you were unable to discern a person walking at a normal volume from a ninja attack," Regina smirked.

She sat on the bench near Emma, her knees protesting the bend. If Emma noticed her wince, she didn't say anything. She simply leaned back against the bench and continued staring at the sky.

"Is there something particularly interesting up there?" Regina asked.

"Well, I suppose some people would say the whole thing is interesting. I mean, the mystery of the cosmos, the idea that we're not alone, but now it all seems rather boring. I mean, I know we're not alone. I know there are other worlds out there, other people living in worlds that are similar to this one, but never quite the same. Honestly the cosmos ain't got nothing on Storybrooke," Emma sighed.

"I suppose that's one way to look at it," Regina agreed.

"I mean, when I was younger, I used to look up at the sky, searching for shooting stars to make wishes on so I could wish for a better life, for parents who loved me. As I got older, I stopped wishing. None of my wishes ever came true. I figured my wishes and dreams didn't matter. And the I met Neal and he left me pregnant and in jail, and I knew my wishes weren't getting to anyone important. Anything I wanted I was going to have to get for myself."

Regina nodded, "We didn't wish on shooting stars, but I spent many nights wishing for my fairy godmother to appear. Of course that was before I learned that my mother had killed our fairy, so my wishes were never going to be answered."

"Your mom was a real piece of work. No offense," Emma replied.

"She certainly was. But she was my mother. Your mother certainly isn't perfect, but you still love her."

"I guess. I mean, even when I thought she didn't want me, I still loved her and wished I could find her."

Regina nodded and they sat in silence for a few moments. Emma pulled at a thread on her shorts and Regina tried to ignore the pain in her hands and knees.

"So, what brings you here tonight?" Emma asked.

"I suppose you won't buy that I simply needed some air two nights in a row," Regina offered.

"I may be a bit slow sometimes, but I'm not totally stupid," Emma replied.

"I simply…didn't wish to be at home anymore," Regina said.

Emma frowned and turned toward Regina, "I know we're not exactly best friends or anything…"

"That's a bit of an understatement dear," Regina interrupted.

Emma continued, "But you know, if you need someone to talk to, or someplace to go, I'm here. No judgments, I won't like, hold anything over your head."

"That's very nice dear, but there's really nothing to discuss," Regina said.

"So, that's nothing that happened to your hands and knees then," Emma said knowingly.

Regina sighed. Apparently Sheriff Swan was also more observant than Regina gave her credit for. But she probably should have known that. After all the blonde had thwarted every one of Regina's carefully laid plans, whether she meant to or not.

"It's nothing, really. I made a mistake. I used magic," Regina said.

"Look, I know I'm not the biggest proponent of magic, and we both know there are consequences to using it recklessly, but Regina, magic isn't bad unless you're using it for bad things," Emma said.

"I know that. But magic, my magic has caused so much trouble. And it took Robin's wife, Roland's mother. I, of all people, can understand that magic is dangerous. How quickly it can be used to destroy lives."

"But it can also be used to save lives," Emma argued, "Hell, it saved our son. You saved us all by resetting the curse."

"The curse I cast in the first place," Regina scoffed.

"Look, we can argue about you casting the curse all day, but in the end, it gave us Henry, so it couldn't have been all bad."

"But was it worth the lives I took to cast it?"

"I don't know, Regina. All I know is that, even now, knowing what I know, if I had a second chance, I'd still go with Neal. I'd still spend all those months in jail, because it gave me the wonderful boy I know today. We were both part of that, so I can tell myself that it all worked out in the end," Emma said.

"I want this all to be enough, but sometimes, I wonder what would have happened if Daniel and I had run away sooner, or if Snow White had never come into my life. Could I have been happy? Would I have my own family? Or would have been unhappy. Robin is my true love, could I have truly been happy with Daniel?"

Emma sighed, "If you ask me, this true love stuff is a bunch of bullshit. Sometimes you meet the perfect guy, he's everything you dreamed of, but perfect isn't all it's cracked up to be, you know? We don't really want perfect. We want human. We want people who are broken and jaded like us."

"Well, I've certainly got enough broken and jaded to go around," Regina said.

"Ditto," Emma smiled, "Henry will surely require years of therapy down the road."

"Hopefully he'll find a therapist who isn't a cricket," Regina quipped.

Emma laughed, "Seriously though, I think he's turned out pretty well so far. He's a hell of a lot better off than I was at his age. At least I don't see a career of stealing from convenience stores in his future."

"And he certainly doesn't have any plans to become the evil ruler of a land full of people who hate him," Regina added.

"People don't hate you," Emma said.

Emma watched a frown appear on Regina's face. But she meant her words. There were few people who truly hated Regina, especially now that she'd sacrificed so much for them. Sure, they were sometimes uneasy around the powerful woman, but Emma knew that was largely because there wasn't really a protocol for how to act around a woman who had once cursed an entire land.

"While I appreciate your optimism, I hardly think a few good deeds erase the things I've done," Regina replied.

"You can't erase the past, Regina. It's always going to be there. But that doesn't mean you can't make a better future. Your past is always going to be a part of you, just like mine is always going to be a part of me. I can't erase the fact that I was a fucked up kid who broke the law and ended up pregnant and in jail. But that doesn't mean I have to stay a fucked up kid who breaks the law. You don't have to be the evil queen. In fact, I don't think you've been the evil queen for quite a long time."

"I'm not even Mayor Mills anymore," Regina said softly.

Regina knew she'd lost herself somewhere along the way. Her relationship with Robin had changed her. At first she'd thought he was good, and right. Magic had often brought her nothing but trouble, and Regina knew she should learn to live without it. It was so easily corrupted, and even the best intentions often turned sour when magic was involved. But Regina knew magic was a part of her. It was her saving grace in a horrible situation. It was what gave her the strength to break away from Leopold and forge ahead on her own. And while not every decision she'd made with magic had been a good one, it had certainly offered her the power and independence she craved since she was a child in Cora's clutches. She just wasn't sure how to navigate the gray areas.

"Look, Regina, I know Robin is your true love or whatever, but that doesn't mean you're stuck with him forever. You do have a choice here, true love be damned," Emma said firmly.

"But isn't true love what we all strive for?" Regina wondered.

"True love is just one of those things they tell you about when you're a kid and people are trying to explain that you're important and special and you deserve someone who really loves you for who you are and all that shit. But then again, maybe I'm still just a jaded foster kid at heart," Emma sighed.

"I'm sure after a few days with my mother you'd be begging for the foster system."

Emma laughed, "We're quite the fucking pair aren't we. All sorts of mommy issues. It a wonder Henry hasn't killed us, stuffed us and opened up a hotel."

Regina frowned, not understanding the reference.

Emma smiled at the confused look on her face, "It's a movie, called Psycho. This guy with horrible mommy issues killed his mom or some jazz and kept her body in his living room. Then he spied on ladies in his hotel and hacked them up."

"That sounds positively horrible," Regina said.

"Great movie though. Classic Hitchcock," Emma replied.

"I'll take your word for it dear."

"That's it. I need to educate you on the fine horror films of this world. We're going to have a movie night. I think we'll start with Psycho, maybe Night of the Living Dead, and work our way forward. You're gonna love Texas Chainsaw Massacre," Emma said.

"Let's not get carried away dear. A few midnight chats on benches doesn't make us best friends," Regina halted Emma.

"We're certainly not the most traditional friends, but I think we've been through enough shit together, Regina. We might as well have someone we can count on. Someone we can talk to, you know. Friends."

"I don't have much experience with friends…"

"To be honest, I don't either. I've had a slew of acquaintances over the years, but not many friends," Emma replied.

"Well, I think we're a bit old for slumber parties and gossip about which boys we like," Regina jested.

"Probably, but let me tell you, truth or dare gets more fun the older you get," Emma smirked.

She and Regina had somehow moved closer to each other on the bench. Their knees were touching. Emma wasn't really the touchy feely sort, but she didn't mind being so close to Regina. She felt some strange impulse to protect the woman. Maybe it was because she was Henry's mother, or maybe it was something else.

"Well dear, we'll have to save painting each other's nails for another night, because I should head home."

Emma's face grew more serious, "Regina, you know you don't have to go back there if you're not safe."

Regina plastered on a confident mask, "But dear, I'm the Evil Queen, who would possibly threaten me?"

"I get it, you're a strong, self-assured woman who don't take no crap from no one," Emma said, pushing herself off the bench.

"I certainly hope you're not passing your atrocious grammar skills on to Henry," Regina retorted.

"Please, have you seen the kid's grades, he probably has a better grasp of the English language than Shakespeare," Emma laughed.

She stretched her muscles that had tightened up sitting on the bench. Regina couldn't help but appreciate the blonde's toned stomach as her shirt rose up, revealing a thin expanse of pale skin. Emma finished stretching out her sore muscles and offered a hand to Regina. Regina took it and noted how Emma carefully avoided her scratched palms.

"So, horror movie marathon tomorrow night then?" Emma suggested.

"Don't push your luck Miss Swan," Regina replied.

"Alright, but if you should change your mind, just stop by," Emma smiled.

"Don't hold your breath."

Emma smiled at the brunette and jogged away.

Chapter Text

Precious Illusions

 


 

These precious illusions in my head did not let me down
When I was defenseless
And parting with them is like parting with invisible best friends

 


 

After her encounter with Regina, Emma's mind was far too busy to even think of sleep. She'd crept quietly into her apartment and tossed her running shoes into the small pile near the door. She sighed and decided if she couldn't sleep, she may as well do something useful and set about cleaning the apartment. It was due for a good cleaning anyway.

She'd quickly sorted the laundry into semi-coherent piles. Emma still wasn't entirely sure it was necessary to sort laundry, but she did it anyway. She briefly wondered how one teenage boy could create so much smelly laundry, but then she picked up a pile of her own laundry and realized where he got it from. She shoved a pile of jeans into the washer and headed to the kitchen.

She swept the floor, finding a piece of popcorn that had most likely been there since movie night a few weeks ago. After she'd finished sweeping and finding food under the appliances, Emma decided the floor probably needed a good mopping as well. Unfortunately she didn't own a proper mop. Emma groaned as she sunk down to her hands and knees, a soapy rag in her hand. As she moved forward on her knees, she couldn't help but think about the marks on Regina's palms and knees.

Sometimes it was hard for her to imagine Regina as anything other than the obstinate, determined woman who had tried everything in her power to get Emma out of town. Or as the commanding Evil Queen who didn't take shit from anyone in the Enchanted Forest. She could hardly picture Regina as a woman who tolerate any form of abuse.

But Emma supposed many abuse victims put up a brave front. And from everything she had learned about Regina over the past few years, as strong as she sometimes appeared, it was just a shield she hid behind. Regina was mostly just fragile, desperate to fit in and be loved. And it seemed like she was perfectly willing to sacrifice her emotional and physical wellbeing to do so. Perhaps that was one of the wonderful virtues Cora had instilled in her daughter.

Emma had certainly spent enough time in foster care to know what abusive parents could do to their children and how that could effect them them in the future. She was certain it would take Regina years of therapy to sort out everything Cora did to her. Unfortunately the only therapist in town was a former cricket who had already betrayed Regina's trust.

It was clear that if anyone was going to do anything about Regina's seemingly abusive relationship, it was going to be Emma. At least she and Regina had been friendly lately and she didn't have to start from scratch. Emma wondered if she could convince Regina to spend more time away from Robin. She was sure it wouldn't be easy, but she was going to give it a try.


Regina couldn't help but ponder Emma's words. Would she be better off walking away from true love? That couldn't possibly be true. True love was what every little girl dreamed of. It was all Regina had ever hoped for, someone who loved her, a family. Besides, it wasn't as though Emma was an expert on true love just because she was the Savior, the product of true love.

Regina silently made her way through the house and slipped into her bedroom silently. She took her pajamas and changed in the bathroom. She quickly put a bit more ointment on her hands and knees to help them heal quicker before leaving the silent sanctuary of the bathroom. Luckily Robin was sleeping soundly. Regina carefully climbed into the bed and curled up. She was careful to stay on her side of the bed, wrapping her arms around herself. Regina pulled the covers over her tired, sore body and fell into a fitful sleep.

She awoke a few hours later, feeling neither rested nor refreshed. She looked at the clock and decided it was late enough to justify being awake. She carefully climbed out of the bed she had just climbed into and headed back to the bathroom. This time she turned the shower on, hotter than was really necessary.

Regina quickly stripped off her sleepware, tossing it in the laundry basket, and climbed into the shower. The water burned across her skin, stinging her palms and knees. She ignored the pain and picked up a shampoo bottled. She quickly completed her shower routines until she was clean. She stepped directly under the shower head and let the water beat down on her face.

She didn't hear the bathroom door open. Regina jumped, nearly falling when she felt hands on her waist. She turned her head to find Robin behind her. He didn't say anything, simply pressed his lips to the back of her neck, his hands holding tightly onto her hips. Regina's stomach sank. She didn't say anything as rough hands explored her body, pressing her into the cool shower wall.

She closed her eyes and allowed him to finish. She waited until he had washed himself off and left the bathroom before sinking into the tub. The water had gone cold but Regina couldn't bring herself to care. She stayed on the floor of the tub for far longer than she cared to admit. Her fingers were pruny by the time she managed to pull herself off the floor and get out of the ice cold water.

She spent as much time as possible getting ready for work, hoping that Robin would take Roland to school and she wouldn't have to face him again. She made her way downstairs and it was quiet. It seemed that luck was on her side for once that day. Unfortunately the coffee pot was empty. It seemed as though she would be making a stop at Granny's on her way to town hall.


Emma was hunched over the counter at the diner, attempting to drink enough coffee to get tired body moving. She turned her head to see who it was, a small smile spreading across her face when she saw it was Regina. Her smiled faded when she noticed the distant look on Regina's face. Perhaps she had made a mistake when she allowed Regina to go back home last night. Regina made her way up to the counter, not acknowledging Emma at all.

"Can I buy you a coffee, Madam Mayor?" Emma asked.

Regina jumped slightly at the sound of Emma's voice. Emma moved to put her hand on Regina's arm, but Regina flinched away. Emma knew not to push her luck.

"No, thank you, Sheriff Swan, I can certainly afford my own coffee," Regina replied stiffly.

"I know you can afford your own coffee, Regina. I was just trying to be friendly," Emma explained.

"I'm afraid I don't have time for friendly. I have work to do. And I'm certain you do as well."

Ruby returned with a large coffee and Regina quickly tossed some money on the counter. Without so much as a goodbye she headed out of the diner. Emma wasn't sure what had happened since they parted ways on the pier early that morning, but she knew it wasn't good.

"Someone's a bit grumpy this morning," Ruby said, leaning against the counter near Emma.

"No kidding, she was perfectly fine earlier," Emma said, without realizing what she had revealed to the brunette waitress.

"Earlier?" Ruby asked.

Emma's eyes widened when she realized her mistake, "Uh, earlier, like yesterday. I went out for a run last night and she was on a walk. She was fine then. We had a nice chat."

Ruby's eyes narrowed. She may not have had Emma's superpower, but she knew when someone wasn't telling the whole truth. She just wasn't sure which part of Emma's story was a lie.

"Well, she's certainly in a mood now," Ruby said finally.

"Yeah. Well, I suppose I should get to work, Rubes. Wouldn't want the mayor to come back in here and try to unelect me or something," Emma smirked.

She quickly paid Ruby for her breakfast, taking a cup of coffee and an extra bear claw for later. Emma made her way to the station to work on the pile of paperwork that she'd been collecting. She'd been slowly working through it, but it was rather difficult to get much done when she was so tired. But it was nearing the end of the month and Regina was a stickler about her paperwork being done on time.

Emma spent the morning forcing herself to do paperwork and by the time lunch rolled around, she was nearly done. She decided she could leave a few minutes early as a reward for being so productive. She quickly forwarded the phone to her cellphone and headed out of the station. Since she was leaving early and it was a nice day, Emma decided to walk to Granny's.

There was a slight breeze that stopped the sun from being too hot. It was one of those idyllic days that people write about. Sun shining, children skipping about, birds chirping happily. Emma wondered for a moment if she should simply skip out of work and just enjoy the day before remembering that wasn't really an option. She would simply have to enjoy her walk to Granny's and then enjoy a greasy hamburger.

She made it to Granny's and pulled the door open. She quickly scanned the room and was happy to see Regina sitting in the corner booth. She didn't have food yet. Emma quickly placed her order at the counter and made her way over to the brunette.

"Mind if I join you?" Emma asked carefully.

She wasn't sure what had made Regina so angry this morning, but she didn't want to make it worse. She knew antagonizing Regina wouldn't do any good now. She wanted to prove to the mayor that she was on her side. Luckily, Regina gave a small smile and gestured to the empty seat.

"I don't see why not," Regina said.

Emma slipped into the booth and made herself comfortable.

"Nice day we're having, eh?" Emma asked.

"Indeed. Perhaps I'll take Roland to the park later," Regina said.

"Maybe Henry and I could join you?" Emma suggested.

"Henry's a bit old for the park, don't you think?" Regina replied.

"Yeah, but he's not too old to hang out with his moms. Not yet anyway," Emma smiled.

"I suppose that would be okay, if Henry wants to."

Their conversation was interrupted when Ruby arrived with their food. To Emma's surprise, Regina's plate held a hamburger too, though it was accompanied by a side salad instead of fries.

"Were you body snatched, or is the mayor of Storybrooke voluntarily eating some greasy junk food?" Emma joked.

"I assure you, Sheriff, I have not been...body snatched. I'm simply indulging a bit today," Regina explained.

"It's okay. Sometimes we all need a bit of junk food," Emma smiled.

"Though some of us seem to require more than a bit," Regina said as Emma shove a few fries in her mouth.

Emma swallowed her food and stuck her tongue out. Regina laughed.

"You are such a child. I'm not entirely sure I trust you to organize my town's law enforcement."

"I will have you know I'm perfectly qualified. I have seen every single Police Academy movie at least twice."

Regina simply shook her head and picked up her burger. They spent the next half hour making small talk and eating their meals. Emma was happy they could share small talk and lunch now. Not too long ago the idea of the savior and the evil queen being civil in the same diner was unthinkable.

"Well, I suppose it's about time to get back to work, Miss Swan," Regina said.

Emma checked her watch and agreed. After her chat with Regina and some delicious hamburger in her stomach, Emma didn't feel so grumpy about her remaining paperwork. They headed out of the diner together.

"Where's your car?" Regina asked, not spotting the yellow bug or the cruiser.

"Oh, it was such a nice day I decided to walk," Emma explained.

"Would you like a ride back? It's getting a bit late, I wouldn't want our sheriff shirking her duties," Regina said.

Emma smiled, "Sure, I'd love a ride."

She followed Regina to the pristine Mercedes and climbed into the passenger seat. She waited until Regina had pulled away from the diner to speak.

"Look, Regina, I'm not asking what happened to make you so upset the morning. I just want you to know that if you want to talk about it, I'm here for you."

Regina didn't respond, but from the tears glistening in her eyes, Emma was sure she'd been heard. She pulled up to the station and Emma began to climb out of the car.

"Emma, wait..."

Emma turned back toward Regina.

"I...thank you."

Emma smiled, "That's what friends are for, Regina."

Regina smiled back at the blonde before driving away. Emma headed back into the station to finish her paperwork.


Emma and Henry were already at the park when Regina arrived with Roland. They were sitting on a bench chatting happily. With Roland's hand in her own, she started toward the pair.

"Mom!" Henry said happily.

Emma looked up, "Hey Regina."

"Hello Henry, Emma."

Emma turned toward Roland, "Hey buddy, you ready to have some fun at the park?"

Roland smiled and nodded.

"Well, Henry and I have been giving this a lot of thought, and we've decided that we're all going to play Sardines," Emma said.

"What on earth is Sardines?" Regina asked.

"Well, it's sorta like hide and seek, but instead of everyone hiding and one person searching, one person hides and everyone searches. But if you find the hiding person, you have to hide with them, until there's only one person left looking," Henry explained.

"What do you think Roland?" Regina asked, "Do you want to play Sardines?"

Roland agreed and it was decided that Emma would hide first. Roland, Henry and Regina turned away and counted together while Emma hid. The reset curse had provided the town with an expansive wooden playground, with several good places to hide. Somehow Regina expected that Emma Swan would be very good at hiding.

They finished counting and set off in different directions to search for the blonde. Regina smiled and Roland and Henry happily climbed through wooden archways and down tiny staircases. She took a moment to scan the area, looking for the most likely places Emma would be hiding.

It was mostly by chance that the sun happened to shine through the yellow plastic tube that bridged two platforms at just the moment Regina was looking. She could see the shadow of a body moving, probably trying to get comfortable. Regina smirked and began to make her way toward the blonde. She casually searched in cubbies on the way there so the boys wouldn't spot her. When she was sure neither Henry nor Roland was looking, she ducked into the plastic tube with Emma.

Emma smiled, "Fancy seeing you here, Madame Mayor."

"Indeed. Let's not make meeting here a habit. I'm afraid it could be a hazard for my back," Regina said as she shifted around.

"Don't worry, I'll give you a massage if need be," Emma said.

Regina didn't reply. She was too busy wondering what Emma's hands would feel like on her body. They certainly wouldn't be rough. Maybe a little calloused, Emma was no stranger to hard work, but certainly not the bruising grip she had grown used to.

"So, how long do you reckon we have before the boys find us," Emma asked, pulling Regina from her thoughts.

"They were near the monkey bars when I climbed in, so a few minutes at least," Regina replied.

"Good," Emma said.

She and Regina were pressed close together in the middle of the tube, making it impossible for anyone to see them unless they bent down and looked into the tube. They were facing opposite directions but their legs were touching, and their hands bumped together when Emma shifted a bit to get comfortable.

"So, are we still on for that horror movie marathon?" Emma joked.

"Oh certainly. You bring the movies, I'll bring the candy and we can prank call people and flit about in our pajamas," Regina shot back.

"Unfortunately, I don't own any pajamas."

"Why does that not surprise me," Regina replied, her voice light and happy.

"And I suppose you only fancy silk pajamas, of course."

"Only the best, dear."

"Wouldn't have expected anything less."

Regina was about to respond when Emma leaned forward and pressed her hand over Regina's mouth. Regina's eyebrows narrowed and she nearly pushed Emma away from her until she heard small feet on wood near them. They remained still and silent until the feet moved in a different direction. Emma pulled her hand back, and rested it on Regina's forearm.

Regina knew Emma meant well, but she was becoming a little claustrophobic in the tunnel and Emma's touches weren't helping. The hand over her mouth had nearly set her off. She knew Emma wouldn't hurt her, but Emma's action had been far too close to many other things she hadn't consented to.

"Regina?" Emma asked, seeing the slight panic in the brunette's eyes.

Regina didn't respond. She took a deep breath and tried to shove the feelings back down. Maybe it wasn't the best way to deal, but it was the only way she knew how. Emma simply waited until Regina had whatever was going on under control.

"Hey, it's gonna be okay," Emma said quietly.

Regina was about to reply when the thunder of feet returned and two brown haired boys peered into the tube they were hiding in.

"Sardines!" Henry shouted.

"Sardines!" Roland repeated happily.

Emma and Regina climbed out of the tube. By the time they were up, the boys had already rushed off to another part of the playground. Emma saw them picking up sticks. Clearly Henry was going to pass on his sword fighting skills.

"Apparently the boys are done with us," Emma smiled.

"That's quite alright. I brought a book, anyway," Regina explained.

"Great, you can read to me," Emma smirked.

She and Regina made their way to the bench to relax while the boys scrambled around the wooden playground. It took a few minutes, but Emma managed to convince Regina to read her book aloud. Emma had only mocked her for a moment when she realized it was Shakespeare. But after Regina had made a semi-disparaging remark about Emma only reading Dr. Seuss books, they'd settled onto the bench and Regina began reading.

Chapter Text

Precious Illusions

 


 

This ring will help me yet as will you knight in shining armor
This pill will help me yet as will these boys gone through like water

 


 

Emma was sitting on the couch, mindlessly watching old episodes of Judge Judy. Henry had been in bed for a while but Emma had no desire to lay awake and stare at her ceiling for the next few hours. It was pouring rain outside, putting a damper on her new nightly routine. The apartment was nearly spotless after her cleaning rampage last night. She'd even managed to make a pretty thorough shopping list for the first time in her life.

Emma was just finishing her second beer of the evening when she heard a soft knock on the door. She frowned, who the hell was knocking on her door at midnight? She pushed herself off the couch and walked the short distance to the door. She pulled the chain free and unlocked the door. Emma pulled it open, revealing a soaking wet mayor.

"Regina? What are you doing here? It's pouring," Emma said.

"Let's not make a big deal of this," Regina said, "May I come in?"

"Yeah, of course," Emma replied, stepping out of the doorway.

Regina shuffled into the apartment, looking only mildly uncomfortable. Emma smiled and motioned for the brunette to follow her. Emma led her to her bedroom. Regina watched silently as Emma dug through a few piles of clothes.

"Here," Emma said, holding out a pair of sweat pants and a t-shirt, "You can change into these and I'll put your clothes in the dryer."

Emma slid out of the room after Regina took the clothes, pulling the door shut behind her. Regina quickly stripped off her wet clothes and pulled the sweat pants on. She briefly wondered if she should leave her bra on before deciding the soaked garment would simply be too uncomfortable. Before she could think too much about the fact that she was standing in Emma Swan's bedroom topless, Regina picked up the t-shirt. It was light gray with a few holes near the hemline. The front of it read Boston Police Department. Regina frowned, Emma had never worked for the Boston Police. She sighed and pulled it over her head. It was soft and it smelled like Emma.

Regina carefully picked up her wet clothes and opened the door. Emma was in the kitchen, making what appeared to be hot chocolate. She didn't hear Regina so the brunette softly cleared her throat. Emma turned around and smiled.

"I'll get those in the dryer. Grab a hot chocolate and have a seat," Emma instructed.

Regina handed the clothes to Emma and the blonde disappeared. Regina made her way to the kitchen and wrapped her hand around a warm mug. Warmth radiated through her chilled body. It was spring, but it was still chilly at night. And the rain had made her even colder.

"Okay. Your clothes are drying. We have hot chocolate. Horror movie marathon?" Emma smirked.

"I feel as though I should just watch one of these horror movies so you'll stop pestering me," Regina replied.

"That's probably best," Emma said happily.

"Fine. Let's do this."

Emma led the way into the living room and began to search through her collection of DVDs for the perfect horror movie. Regina made herself comfortable on the couch and watched the blonde. Finally Emma pulled out a DVD and grinned triumphantly. She quickly put it in the player and made her way over to the couch.

She and Regina weren't exactly sitting next to each other, but neither was wholly on their own cushion either. Emma picked up the remote and pressed play. She adeptly skipped past the previews and began the movie.

"Halloween? Isn't that holiday where children dress up in costumes and receive copious amounts of candy?" Regina asked.

"Well, yeah. But this is a bit different," Emma said.

Regina nodded and settled into the couch with her hot chocolate in hand. Through the course of the movie Regina moved closer to Emma. It seemed the big bad evil queen was a bit scared by horror movies. Michael Meyers burst into a closet and Regina buried her face in Emma's side.

Emma, for her part, did her best not to overanalyze the way her heart raced when Regina's fingers gripped the bottom of her shirt. Or wonder what it meant when Regina simply rested her hand there during a lull in the action.

When the credits finally rolled, Emma managed to pull herself away from the comfort of Regina's embrace, "So I guess this means you don't want to watch the second one?"

Regina glared at the blonde, "No. I most certainly do not."

"How about something a bit more upbeat?" Emma asked.

"That would be acceptable. I feel the need to decompress a bit after that."

Emma pushed herself off the couch and Regina's body missed her warmth. Luckily she returned quickly, the TV screen filling with pink.

"What on earth is this?" Regina asked.

"This, madame mayor, is basically the best movie ever. It's called Legally Blonde," Emma smiled.

They settled back into the couch, much closer than they had been when Halloween started. They sat in silence, their hands were nearly touching on the couch and neither woman could explain the overwhelming urge to reach out and grab the other's hand.

"Oh, this is my favorite part," Emma said happily, jumping off the couch.

Regina turned away from Reese Witherspoon and her blonde friend in the beauty salon to the blonde before her. Emma bent over in a hilariously over exaggerated fashion as Reese explained the mechanics of the 'Bend and Snap'.

"Come on Regina, you have to do the bend and snap. It's something every woman must learn!" Emma said happily.

"Somehow I doubt that."

"Fine. But every woman in my living room must learn it!"

Emma grabbed Regina's hands and pulled her off the couch. Regina reluctantly allowed herself to be pulled into the middle of Emma's living room.

"Miss Swan, this is ridiculous," Regina said as Emma dipped to the ground again.

"You're wearing my clothes, you can call me Emma."

"Fine. Emma, this is ridiculous."

"I know it is. But sometimes you just need to do some ridiculous stuff. Just...try it...it might make you feel better."

Regina smiled, "I already feel better."

Emma returned the smile, "Good."

They fell back onto the couch, closer than before, the movie all but forgotten behind them. Emma turned toward Regina, her face growing more serious.

"Look, Regina, I know I said I wasn't going to force you to talk about anything, and I meant that. But you're welcome to stay here if you're...not safe," Emma said.

Regina frowned. She could tell Emma everything right now. She could tell her every terrible thing that had happened to her. And Emma, with her Savior complex, would protect Regina. But Emma shouldn't have to protect her. She'd spent the last few years cleaning up after Regina and the first 28 years of her life paying for Regina's mistakes.

And now Regina was dealing with the repercussions of her actions. She didn't need rescued, she needed to deal with what her life had become. Everything she was getting now was what she deserved. She had killed people and ruined lives. She had been far from the Queen she had been expected to be.

Emma was staring expectantly, like she was waiting for Regina to spill all her dirty little secrets. Emma should have known that it wouldn't be that easy. Nothing with Regina was ever easy.

"I think...this was a mistake. I should go home," Regina said, "I'm sure my clothes are dry by now."

"You don't have to leave. Just forget I said anything," Emma backpedaled.

But Regina was already off the couch and headed toward the small laundry room. Emma followed her.

"Okay, if you want to leave you can, but at least let me give you a ride. It's still pouring out there," Emma said.

Her words were punctuated by a flash of lightning and a loud clap of thunder. Regina pulled her clothes out of the dryer and held them to her body. She frowned, but nodded.

"Right. You can keep those clothes on, wouldn't want yours to get wet again."

Emma grabbed her keys from the table and a hoody that had been haphazardly tossed on a chair. She pulled her shoes on and unlocked the door. The rain was pouring out of the sky. If Emma had been into symbolism or some shit, she might say it was sign of how the evening had gone.

They quickly made their way to her bug and managed to climb in without getting too wet. Emma jammed the keys in the ignition and set off toward Mifflin Street. Emma drove slower than was strictly necessary even with the bad weather. Part of her was hoping Regina would change her mind. But Emma knew she wouldn't.

Emma glanced at Regina. She was staring straight ahead, her jaw set. One arm was wrapped around her clothes, but the other was resting just on her side of the center console. Emma wanted to grab her hand and reassure her that everything would be fine. But Emma wasn't sure she was equipped to make that promise.

"Don't pull into the driveway, I don't want you to wake anyone up," Regina said as Emma turned onto Mifflin.

Emma killed the lights as she pulled up to the curb. It was eerily similar to what she'd done a few years ago, except for the fact that her passenger wasn't the son she'd given up for adoption. It was the woman who'd adopted him. The only person Emma felt even a little bit comfortable with lately.

They sat in silence for a moment. Neither woman spoke or moved. Emma tried to think of a reason to keep Regina in the car, away from Robin. But finally, Regina pulled the door handle and pushed it open, letting the rain break the silence.

"Regina..." Emma started.

"Miss...Emma, let's not."

"Fine. Just know that I'm still here. Whatever you do, it's your choice, Regina, and I will support you."

Regina nodded, and stepped out of the car. Emma waited until she saw the brunette slip inside the mansion. She waited for a light to come on, even though she knew Regina wouldn't risk that. Emma knew how to sneak into a house, and Regina had been in that house for so long she could probably navigate it blindfolded. And she would have to.

Emma sighed. She had a feeling this was going to be one of the hardest things she'd ever done. And she'd broken curses, slain dragons, and climbed a beanstalk. This was going to take all her savior powers.

Chapter Text

Precious Illusions

 


 

But this won't work as well as the way it once did
Cuz I want to decide between survival and bliss
And though I know who I'm not I still don't know who I am
But I know I won't keep on playing the victim

 


 

The rain continued on through the whole next day. By the time Emma could leave the station she was getting pretty tired of this dreary New England weather. To top it all off, she and Henry were expected at her parents house for dinner that evening.

Emma pulled on her coat and trekked out into the rain. She hoped Henry remembered their plans. She wasn't really interested in tracking her son down at his girlfriend's house or something. Actually, she wasn't really sure if he had a girlfriend, but there was a girl he spent a lot of time with.

Luckily she heard the sounds of a video game blaring from the TV as she unlocked the door. She kicked her wet shoes off and headed into the living room. Henry was perched on the edge of the couch, a pretty girl beside him.

"Hey ma," Henry said without looking up.

"Hey kid, we have to be at your grandparents in half an hour," Emma reminded.

"Okay, I'll get ready as soon as Gemma and I finish this level," Henry replied.

Emma nodded, even though neither teen was looking at her. She headed to her room, eager to get out of her soggy work clothes. As soon as the door closed behind her, she pulled off her wet clothes and tossed them in the general direction of her clothes hamper. She was tired and annoyed and wasn't really that interested in dinner with her parents. But she knew it would be much worse to bail so she would simply have to suffer through it.

She dug a nicer pair of jeans out of her closet and pulled them on. She rooted around in her dresser until she found her favorite worn henley. It was a deep red and the sleeves were a bit frayed, there were a few bleach spots near the hem, but it was warm and comfortable.

It was kind of her safety blanket. It was one of the first things she'd bought with her own money after she got out of jail. It hadn't been nicked from a shop or paid for with stolen money. It was hers, paid for with hard earned money. Sure, it was cheap, she'd gotten it at a second hand shop, but it was all hers.

Emma pulled the shirt over her torso and flopped on to her bed. She really needed to get a handle on her feelings. She was trying so hard to keep everything together and help Regina. And she was a hundred percent sure that jumping Regina wouldn't help her. Not that she wanted to jump Regina, but Emma supposed it wouldn't be the worst thing ever. But Regina needed someone to trust, not someone else who would take advantage of her.

"Ma? Can we drop Gemma off on the way to Grandma's?" Henry called.

Emma pushed herself up, "Sure, we'd better get going."

Henry was pulling on his shoes when Emma exited her bedroom. Gemma was waiting patiently by the door.

"Who won?" Emma asked.

"Nobody, we were playing co-op," Henry explained.

Emma certainly wasn't technology illiterate, but she didn't know much about current gaming. Give her Sonic or Super Mario any day. She didn't know anything about co-op or achievement hunting or all this online gaming stuff. She knew she'd spent quite a bit of money on some wireless headset for Henry to shout at people in other country while shooting things.

"Take an umbrella kid," Emma said as she pulled her boots on.

Henry grabbed an umbrella and the trio headed out the door. The overcast sky still loomed over the whole town. It matched Emma's mood. She briefly wondered if that was a coincidence or if her magical voodoo shit was controlling the weather. She should probably ask Regina about that, if she could get Regina to talk to her ever again.

Everyone loaded into Emma's bug and they headed out. A quick pit stop later and they were pulling up in front of the house Snow and Charming had purchased. It was almost a thing of fairy tales and bedtime stories. Complete with white picket fences and impeccably manicured bushes. It kind of made Emma want to puke.

Henry jumped out of the car and darted for the dry front porch while Emma took her time. She didn't care if she got wet. It wasn't like the day could get much worse. Being soggy couldn't make her mood worse.

Snow greeted them at the door, quickly hanging their wet coats on the rack so they could dry. David and baby James were playing on the living room floor and the smell of marinara float through the house.

"Mmm, lasagna!" Henry smiled.

Emma half smiled, she was sure it would be good, but it wouldn't have that extra kick. She kicked off her boots and quickly hugged her mother. Henry wasted no time headed for James. Henry and the toddler loved to play together.

"Hi sweetie, come help me finish dinner," Snow smiled.

Emma laughed, "Are you sure? I wouldn't want to burn down your nice, new house."

"You can do the salad. If you manage to burn the place down making salad I'll be very impressed," Snow replied.

She quickly set Emma up with some lettuce, carrots and tomatoes to be chopped. Emma absentmindedly tore up the lettuce and tossed it in the bowl. She grabbed the knife and placed the first carrot in the center of the cutting board. It wasn't until the third carrot that she let her mind really wander.

She wondered if Regina made dinner for Robin and Reuben every night. Emma was sure she did, because Regina was good at that sort of stuff. She cared. She knew what kind of food to make when a kid was sick or had a bad day. She made it all look so easy while Emma just made a mess.

Hell, Regina had perfected her image so well, it had taken the trained eye of someone who had been abused and weeks carefully peeling back layers for Emma to suspect something was wrong. People like Emma and Regina knew how to put on masks, to hide their real feelings from everyone around them. But Emma could feel hers slipping. She didn't have the energy to hold it up anymore. Regina was a hell of a lot stronger than Emma had ever been.

A sharp pain in Emma's finger jolted her back to reality.

"Fuck," Emma whispered sharply.

There was blood rushing form her finger. There was no way that particular carrot would be making it into the salad.

"Are you okay?" Snow asked, turning away from the stove.

"Uh, I might need a bandaid," Emma mumbled.

Snow turned away fully and noticed the blood. She quickly snatched Emma's hand to inspect the wound. Emma's finger throbbed.

"David, get me the first aid kit from the bathroom," Snow ordered.

David jumped up and headed for the bathroom. Henry stayed near James but stared at his mother with concern in his eyes. David returned quickly and Snow set to work bandaging Emma up.

"Guys, I feel like this is a little unnecessary, it's just a little cut," Emma complained as Snow disinfected her wound.

"Oh sure, it's a little cut now, but tomorrow your whole hand could be infected. And then they'd have to cut it off," Snow shot back.

"Drama much?" Emma mumbled, but let Snow continue.

After Snow finished bandaging Emma's wound, she was banished to the living room. David took over salad duties while Emma sulked on the couch.


 

The rest of dinner had gone smoothly, James had even enjoyed the lasagna, maybe a bit too much. Emma was pretty sure Snow's hair had more lasagna than James did. They'd settled in the living room and chatted until James became cranky. They'd hugged and said their goodbyes for the evening. The rain had finally stopped by the time Emma and Henry reached the apartment.

Henry had gone to his room immediately to finish up some homework that was due the next day and Emma had settled on the couch, reality TV playing quietly in the background.

She wondered if she should bother going for a run tonight. Would Regina really show up at the pier after last night? Emma doubted it. But what if she did? What if Regina showed up and Emma didn't? She wanted Regina to believe she was stable, someone she could trust, even when every fiber of her being said she couldn't. Hell, Emma didn't even trust herself half the time.

Emma closed her eyes and sighed. Maybe she could get a bit of sleep before deciding what she should do.

Emma was pulled from her dreams by an overly loud infomercial for some glorified lint roller. She glanced at the time on her phone and noticed it was nearly 3 in the morning. She quickly and quietly climbed off the couch and headed to her room. She pulled on some running shorts and socks. She laced up her sneakers and made her way to the front door.

"Ma? Where are you going?"

Emma's head snapped around. Henry was seated in the kitchen with a glass of milk.

"Oh, hey kid, uh, I was just going for a run," Emma said.

"At 3 in the morning?" Henry asked skeptically.

"Yeah, well, I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep, so I figured I'd take a quick jog around the block to tire myself out," Emma tried to explain.

"Okay, I guess," Henry said.

He quickly finished his milk and put the glass in the sink.

"I'll be back soon, no need to worry," Emma said.

"Whatever, I'm going back to sleep."

Emma waited until Henry was back in his room before pulling the front door open. The rain had cooled the night air, Emma shivered as she made her way to the street. She hoped this wasn't a waste of time.


 

"I was starting to think you wouldn't show up," Regina said as soon as Emma was within earshot.

Emma smirked, grateful that the brunette had shown up at all.

"You know me, I'm late to everything," Emma shot back.

"I suppose that's true. Of course, I've taken to lying about the time, so you're usually early."

Emma's jaw dropped, "Are you serious?"

Regina merely smirked while Emma sank onto the bench. She dropped her head back and looked up at the stars. All the clouds from earlier in the day had cleared and the stars were twinkling overhead.

"You know, one of the first things I did when I created Storybrooke was look at the stars, learn the names of the constellations," Regina said.

"I used to love looking up at them when I was younger. Most of the time I didn't have video games or TV, so I'd look at the stars and make my own constellations up," Emma smiled.

"Oh really?" Regina said, "Care to share any?"

Emma laughed, "I'm not sure I remember any now, it was a long time ago."

"I assure, it's been much longer since I was a girl, staring up at the stars," Regina replied.

"Right. You're kinda old. I suppose you're pretty hot for a grandma though," Emma joked.

"Excuse you, I am no one's grandma, unless Henry's gotten into some sort of situation I'm not aware of," Regina replied, ignoring the comment about her hotness.

"God, no. I'm not ready to be a grandma either, the kid's only 14," Emma said.

"How old were you again dear?" Regina smirked.

"Not old enough," Emma replied somewhat more seriously, "Sometimes I don't think I'll ever be old enough. Which is ridiculous, because I'm in my 30s, I should be able to deal with this stuff, I should be a good mom by now, but I always feel like I'm letting everyone down."

"You could never let anyone down. Hell, you could probably go rob the diner right now and your family and this town would still support you. You're the savior, dear."

Emma let out a short laugh, "I'm not sure I could get away with robbery, I think that's against Snow's moral code or something."

"I wouldn't put it past her, she was a thief for a bit, though I suppose that was my fault," Regina replied, "I suppose I'm also responsible for your little stint in jail as well."

"What?" Emma asked incredulously, "How?"

"If it weren't for me, you'd have had loving parents and everything you ever need. You wouldn't have had to steal simply to survive."

"Regina, that's ridiculous. It's not your fault I became a thief. I had other choices, I was just a stupid, pigheaded kid, hell bent on doing what was worst for me. I probably would have done stupid shit if I'd been raised in the Enchanted Forest as well, but I would have had the added pressure of being a princess, being expected to be perfect all the time, it would have driven me crazy. At least in foster care nobody expected much outta me. The fact that I'm not dead or addicted to drugs is kind of an accomplishment," Emma explained.

"That's certainly very optimistic of you. You certainly are Snow White's daughter," Regina laughed, "Next thing you know you'll be talking to birds."

"Ugh, god. If you ever catch me talking to a bird, have me locked up," Emma said.

"You have my word."

Emma laughed and gently nudged Regina with her shoulder. Regina smiled back at the blonde. Her smile quickly faded.

"Miss...Emma, I...uh...I wanted to apologize," Regina said.

"Apologize? For what?" Emma asked.

"You invited me into your home and treated me with kindness, and I'm afraid I was very rude," Regina offered.

"Rude? That's kind of your default when it comes to me, Regina. You don't have to apologize. In fact, I should be apologizing. I pushed you to talk about things you didn't want to and I shouldn't have. I was being a crappy friend and I don't blame you for the way you acted," Emma said.

Regina smiled, "Look at us, having an adult conversation and apologizing to each other with minimal drama."

"No curses, no crazy magical islands or any other shit. It's almost like we're normal people," Emma smiled.

"At least as normal as we can be," Regina agreed.

Emma glanced at Regina's attire and noticed she was wearing jogging pants and sneakers.

"Well, now that we're done being adults, do you want to race?" Emma laughed.

"I don't know about a race, but I would be amenable to a jog," Regina replied.

"Alright, let's go," Emma jumped off the bench.

She extended her hand to the brunette and pulled her up as well. They set off on a slow jog away from the pier. They were both too caught up in gentle shoves and bad jokes to notice a man in the shadows. He may not have been in tights, but they certainly should have recognized Robin Hood.