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It Was Always You

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Finally sleeping with Emma was better than Regina ever could have imagined. The chemistry between them that had grown stronger every time they kissed made it so each and every caress practically sparked with electricity. Regina felt like her entire body was buzzing with energy, and from the way Emma clutched at her and the delicious sounds that fell from her perfect mouth, Regina could only assume she felt the same way.

By the time they had fully satisfied each other, it was hours later and her bed was an absolute tangle of sheets and discarded clothing. But Regina couldn’t care less. She sat with her back propped against the headboard, lazily threading her fingers through Emma’s hair, who was lying with her head on Regina’s lap, with one hand tracing circles on her thighs.

“So, you did read my letter, right?” Emma asked quietly.

Regina smiled. “Yes, my darling Emma, I did.”

Emma turned over so she could look her in the eyes. “I meant what I said in it, you know. I’ll be here for you as long as you want me.”

Regina felt her heart flutter and bit back a soft gasp at the tenderness in Emma’s voice. “I believe that,” she said. “And I … want that. I want you to be here with me as often as you like.”

Emma leaned up to kiss her lightly. “Does that mean we can be, you know, officially together?”

Regina laughed at her awkwardness. “I suppose so, yes.”

Emma grinned and kissed her again. Her sweet enthusiasm was infectious, and Regina found herself grinning back at her. Who would have thought that what Regina’s heart had been missing all these years was this? This simple but enormous connection with someone who knew her and accepted her.

Emma’s smile slowly faded to a look of contemplation as she lay back down, holding one hand against Regina’s ribs, caressing her skin gently with her fingers.

“What happened to you after I left?” Emma asked quietly.

Regina sighed. It was probably time to tell her everything. She pushed a stray lock of hair away from Emma’s face and began to recount those three days in the Enchanted Forest without her.

 

***

The Enchanted Forest - In the Past

Regina stood on the steps of Rumple’s castle, considering what she’d just done. She knew the darkness was still inside her, and she was disturbed by how easily she’d given in to it. She may have been a pawn in Rumple’s plot for the curse, but she had been a willing pawn, if she was honest with herself. She needed to not do that anymore. She needed to be better, for Emma and Henry. So she turned around and walked towards the woods, thinking.

Rumple appeared in front of her, stopping her progress.

“Leaving so soon?” he asked.

“You have your curse. Now leave me alone,” she snapped.

“Don’t you want this?” he conjured the wand and held it out to her.

Regina hesitated. Yes, she wanted to go home. But she wasn’t totally sure she was ready to. She took the wand and weighed it in her hands. It was powerful, and she felt the pull of that power deep within her, where her magic responded to it. She hastily gave it back to him. This was the problem - she needed to get that lust for power and pull towards the darkness under control before she went home.

“Give me a few days,” she said. “You owe me,” she added for good measure. “You didn’t specify that I needed to hand you that curse. You should have just sent me home when I’d found it.”

He smirked at her, but tilted his head in agreement. “Just say the word, dearie. You know where to find me.”

He winked and disappeared.

Regina sighed, looking down the path. An idea was forming in her head. It might be crazy, but right now she could do with something a little drastic to get her back on the right path. So she set off in search of Snow White.

 

It wasn’t hard to find her. Now that Regina knew where she lived, she just made her way back to that nondescript log and waited for Snow to come back. It was mid-day when she got there, and Regina figured Snow would be out hunting or something, so found the softest bit of moss she could to sit down on and wait. Of course, sitting there quietly made her mind race from thought to thought, and pretty soon she was so agitated that she had to stand up and walk around. Emma had said that Snow forgave her, and Regina had heard this time’s Snow say that she would be willing to forgive her as well. And Emma wrote in her letter that she believed in Regina so much that she trusted her to go into the darkness and come out of it again. But right at this moment, Regina didn’t understand that at all. Why did Emma believe in her like that? What did she see in her that Regina herself didn’t? Because all it took was even the thought that Emma had left her for Regina to turn straight to what she always did - dark magic. She shouldn’t be trusted with anything, let alone getting herself back out of the darkness again.

She sat down again, willing her mind to quiet. And it worked for a while. But then she gradually started to take in the details around Snow’s little hut - the camouflaged piles of arrows, rocks laid in a rough circle for a fire, an empty water skin that must have fallen out of her pack - and the guilt and shame over what she’d done to Snow and so many others rose up so fast that Regina was very nearly physically sick with it. Yes, she was trying to change, to be better for her family. But that didn’t erase what she’d done. She needed some way to atone for it. But she really didn’t know how. She wished Emma were here. Somehow it was easier to find that lightness inside her when Emma was around. Suddenly all of the fight and anger went out of her, and she sank down to the ground, putting her head down on her knees.

“I wish you were here to help me,” she whispered out loud.

A soft buzzing sound roused her from her thoughts, and she looked up to see the Blue Fairy hovering in the air in front of her. The fairy seemed to jump and flew backwards a few feet before recovering and returning to peer into her face.

“What are you doing here?” Regina grumbled.

“Believe me, I’m just as surprised about this situation as you are,” Blue replied.

Regina narrowed her eyes. “What does that mean?”

“I heard your wish,” Blue said simply.

Regina stared at her for a second, and then, inexplicably, began to laugh uncontrollably. The fairy seemed even more disturbed by this, so with some effort she got herself under control. It’s not that it was funny, really. It was just so ridiculous that she didn’t know any other way to respond.

“Well that’s rich. The Blue Fairy responding to my wish. Well, I wished for … someone to be here who can’t be,” Regina said with a rueful smile. “I don’t think there’s anything you can do about that.”

Blue fluttered down to perch on a tree stump next to Regina. “Something in your wish summoned me, though,” she said, her voice kinder than Regina had ever heard it. “As before, I sense a great deal of light magic in you, along with the dark. Your wish came from the light, and so I heard it.”

Regina instantly understood what that meant; when she wished for Emma to be here, she’d done it with light magic, which was borne from love. Love. Emma. Love. The words bounced around in her head, adding to the general chaos of her thoughts. She sneered at the Fairy, unwilling to admit out loud what she knew to be true.

“Aren’t you going to ask me what happened to that curse?” she spat, wanting to redirect the conversation.

Blue backed up a couple of steps, but shook her head. “No. I already know you’ve set things in motion. My task now is to prepare for the curse that we now know will be coming. Until then, I will do my duty as a fairy, and help people who wish for it.” She said this last bit with a pointed look at Regina, who looked away.

“You’re the last person I would ever ask for help,” she said coldly.

“That may be,” Blue replied, “but nevertheless you wished for assistance, and here I am. I turned away from your need once before,” she added, “but I am here now.”

Regina remembered that Tinker Belle had mentioned that when she asked Blue about helping Regina all those years ago, Blue had told her that Regina was beyond hope. Regina considered the possibility that the fairies had indeed heard her pleas during that time when she wished and wished and wished for something in her life to change, but had decided to ignore it. Perhaps due to the darkness she had already started to invite into her heart. She wasn’t sure how she felt about that, but there was some comfort in hearing that perhaps Blue understood that abandoning Regina to the darkness had been a mistake. And Regina knew something about mistakes.

“Not just any wish can summon a fairy,” Blue continued. “Your heart must be true and your motives pure. It’s clear to me that whatever has happened to you since you were the Queen, much has changed in your heart.”

Regina sighed. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me, fairy,” she said, but the bite was gone from her tone.

“Who was it that you wished could be here?” Blue asked.

Regina closed her eyes for a second. Was she really going to do this? Apparently she was.

“My … friend,” she said hesitantly. When she saw Blue raise her tiny eyebrows, she sighed again. “She’s my … I don’t know what she is. But I think … I think we love each other, and she makes me want to be a better person.”

It was excruciating to say that out loud, to the Blue Fairy of all people, but once she’d said it, a part of Regina rejoiced to hear the words come out of her mouth. She did love Emma. And she was pretty sure that Emma felt the same. And if being Henry’s mom had made her want to change, loving Emma made her want to change for good.

“I want to atone for what I’ve done,” she said, so quietly she wasn’t sure if the fairy would hear her. “I can’t take it back, but I want to make it right.”

“And that is why I heard your wish,” Blue said. “I have no doubt that you love this woman, but your wish was not about her.”

Regina glared at her, “Of course it was about her,” she snapped, and then told herself to calm down. She tried again. “I feel like I have to do something to get myself on the right path again before I can go home,” she said, this time with honesty instead of defensiveness in her voice. “But I don’t know how to do that, and if she were here, she’d know what to do.”

Blue smiled then, and Regina noticed how rarely she did that. Maybe she’d done it more before the curse, but Regina couldn’t remember Blue’s face looking anything but stern or worried.

“Do you know what I tell my apprentices?” Blue asked. “Most of the time our job is not to do something, but rather to remind people to have hope, and to help them see that they already know what they need to do, if they have the courage to do the right thing.”

She twitched her wings and rose into the air in front of Regina. “I will leave you with this, then. You may have already done some good here, Regina. That tree the curse was hidden in? It was one of the most powerful of enchanted trees in the forest, and now that its dark burden has been lifted, it is returning to its intended purpose, as a keeper of light magic.”

With that, she flew away, leaving Regina to ponder her words.

 

***

Snow didn’t come home that night. Eventually it got cold enough that Regina decided to light a fire, and then she got sleepy enough that she put out the fire and crept into Snow’s cave, remembering at the last second to re-do the glamour that disguised her as Kathryn before falling asleep on the pile of furs in the corner where she and Emma had slept together just a day ago. At dawn the next morning, she was awoken to a sharp prod. She gasped and sat up, willing herself awake in an instant.

“Kathryn?” Snow said when she finally got a look at her. “What are you doing here?” She lowered the bow she was holding, and Regina took a deep breath to steady her nerves.

“I’m sorry to sneak in,” she said, “I came looking for you and you weren’t here.”

Snow threw her pack down and sat on the other side of the cave, grabbing a basket of food and tossing it between them. She gestured for Regina to have some.

“Why did you need to find me?” Snow asked, and then looked around. “Where’s Anna?”

Regina helped herself to some dried meats and fruit and answered with what she hoped was the truth: “She’s home with our son. I came back, well, to check on you. To make sure you’re going to be alright.”

Snow’s face softened, and Regina saw how young she looked.

“That’s very nice of you,” she said. “And I’m fine. I don’t mind have company for a bit, though.” After a pause, she asked, “You have a son?”

Regina smiled. “Yes. He’s almost 14 now.”

“I’d love to have kids someday,” Snow replied, and then her smile faded. “But that’s probably not going to happen, given how my life is.”

Regina furrowed her brow. That didn’t sound like the Snow White she knew, who practically oozed optimism and enthusiasm. This Snow looked like she’d just about given up.

“Don’t say that, dear,” Regina said, trying to sound encouraging. “You never know what may change in your life. You just can’t give up when things seem bleak.”

Good grief, was Regina actually giving Snow White a hope speech? And just like that, Regina knew what she needed to do. She may not be able to right any of the wrongs of the past, but she could help ensure that Snow would weather the coming challenges. So she took Snow’s hand and looked at her carefully.

“I believe in you, Snow White,” she said, quieting the part of her mind that shrank from that simple phrase, horrified. “I believe in your ability to make it through this horrible time in your life and find something better.”

Snow sighed and looked at Regina gratefully.

“Thank you,” she said quietly. “I guess sometimes I really need someone else to remind me to have hope. It’s hard out here by myself.”

Regina nodded. “I understand that. More than you could possibly know,” she added under her breath.

Snow took her hand back and settled back in to eating. After a moment, she looked up shyly.

“I did meet someone interesting recently,” she said.

Regina knew where this was headed, and she fought her deep-rooted instinct to roll her eyes at any mention of Prince Charming. But she was here to make things right, and she had found one way to do that, so she sat back and asked Snow about her mysterious young prince.

 

***

Storybrooke - Present Day

By this point, Emma had shifted them around so they were snuggled up together under the covers. They lay on their sides, faces inches apart while Regina recounted the details of her time in the forest with Snow.

“You gave my mom a hope speech?” Emma asked with a laugh.

Regina smiled too, but with sadness behind it. “Several, in fact, over the three days that we spent together. She just looked so lost, so defeated. And there was something about what the Fairy said to me - that sometimes people honestly just need you to believe in them. I felt like perhaps that was my opportunity, even if it was a small thing, to do some good.”

Emma hooked a leg over Regina’s and pulled their bodies closer. “I noticed that about Snow, too,” she said, “and given how she reacted when she found out you were Kathryn, I’d say your hope speeches worked.”

Emma chuckled. “We’re getting into some serious time travel insanity here, aren’t we?”

Regina looked up at her, confused.

“Your hope speech,” Emma explained. “You basically learned it from Snow, but apparently now she learned it from you. Another one of those, what did you call them, circular paradoxes?”

“I suppose so,” Regina answered, and shook her head. “Probably best not to think about it too much.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t,” Emma replied, offering her a quick kiss.

Regina sighed and returned this kiss enthusiastically. There was one more thing to tell Emma, and she needed to feel this connection, this sweetness before going into it. Emma seemed to notice that her mood had shifted into something more thoughtful, and turned to lay on her back, pulling Regina into her side and cradling her head on her arm. Regina lay there for a moment while Emma stroked her cheek tenderly.

“What I said to Snow at the diner,” Regina began. Emma hummed, encouraging her to keep talking.

“That I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her.” Regina paused, not entirely sure how to say this.

“I thought about not coming back,” she said finally.

Emma squeezed her tighter in response, and murmured, “I’m so glad you did.”

“I thought you might be better off without me,” Regina said, her voice barely audible. But Emma heard.

“What changed your mind?” she asked, and Regina noticed that her first response wasn’t to argue, but rather to ask. And though she might not have thought it, it was the perfect response. Regina turned her head to kiss Emma’s arm lightly.

“Snow,” she answered. “Obviously I didn’t tell her the details, but in those three days we spent together, I told her that I was thinking about starting a new life somewhere where nobody knew me. And she kept asking me why I would ever do that when I had family and a place to call home. And I had answers for her - a lot of answers, in fact. But she just kept pushing, and eventually I realized that I don’t trust myself, and so I can’t imagine ever asking you to trust me, either.”

Regina pushed herself up on her elbows so she could look down at Emma.

“And do you know what she said to me?”

Emma shook her head, a gentle smile playing across her face.

“She said ‘you’re the one who’s always going on about hope. And what is hope but trust that things will get better?’”

Emma’s smile widened. “She gave you a hope speech,” she said, and Regina chuckled in response.

Regina traced a finger along Emma’s cheek, tapping along the spray of freckles that were only visible when she was this close.

“I’ve done a lot of terrible things, Emma,” she said. “I’ve worked really hard to change, and to be better, but a part of me doesn’t trust that it’ll hold. It was far too easy to turn to the darkness when I felt hurt, and I didn’t come home right away because I was afraid of what I might do.”

“Regina,” Emma started, but Regina put a finger to her lips.

“Being with Snow for those three days, watching her start to embrace that persistent optimism that must have always been a part of her reminded me of how I feel when I’m with you. You make me want to be a better person, Emma. And maybe … maybe I don’t quite trust myself, but maybe I trust us. Together.”

She rested a hand on Emma’s chest, feeling her heartbeat through her hand.

“Can I kiss you now?” Emma whispered, and Regina laughed.

“Yes,” she replied.

Emma leaned up to claim her lips, pulling Regina up and on top of her. Regina sighed into the kiss, and closed her eyes to drink in the sensation of being held like this. When they finally parted, she looked into Emma’s eyes and took a deep breath. She’d already decided to say the words, and knew she meant them, but that didn’t make it any less terrifying. But she’d promised herself - and Snow - that when she got home, she would tell Emma how she felt.

“Emma, I...” she started, and then stopped. She closed her eyes for a moment, and then opened them again, willing away her fear.

“I love you, Emma,” she whispered.

Emma gasped softly, but she tightened her arms around Regina’s waist and nuzzled her face into Regina’s neck.

“I love you too,” Emma whispered into her skin.

Regina’s heart soared, and she held Emma tight.

“And I trust us, too,” Emma added.

Regina found her lips again and kissed her deeply. She rolled off to the side, and they wrapped their arms around each other. Regina glanced up at Emma when she heard her breathing start to even out as she drifted off to sleep. ‘I’m very glad I came home,’ she thought, and closed her eyes, letting herself fall asleep in the arms of the woman she loved.