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but you saw no fault, no cracks in my heart

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The first time you notice it happen you’re in the bug, Henry in the passenger seat, driving him back to bumfuck nowhere, Maine. It’s subtle, but it’s still there -- the steady glow, almost a pulse, as the red thread tied to the littlest finger of your left hand begins to change, to brighten.

 

You’ve seen it before, two strangers on a bus, sitting closely together, the thread connecting their fingers almost blinding to those that can see it. Then there are those whose strand brightens as they walk down the street, but then dulls again as they turn a corner, never knowing that for the shortest of moments that one person they were meant to be with had gotten a little closer than ever before.

 

So it’s nothing new when you see someone’s thread suddenly glow bright, but it’s never been your own.

 

The kid is still chattering on in the seat beside you and you hear phrases that stick out to your muddled brain: “she’s evil” and “she hates me”.

 

You try to focus on the importance of these phrases, that the kid, Henry, -- your kid -- feels this way. You shove your left hand into your lap, fist clenching, nails digging into your palm. The color will dull out again before long, maybe as you pass by the next exit, or maybe the one after that.

 

Either way, you don’t need to see it when it finally happens.



Henry is half asleep as you take the last exit, finally nearing the place he calls home. You take the wheel with your left hand and nudge his shoulder with your right. “Hey, Kid, we’re almost there.”

 

He turns in his seat with a sleepy smile and says, “Okay, Emma.” His smile holds it’s place for a moment before he fully wakes, and then his smile slips away. “Do we really have to, Emma? I told you she’s-”

 

“I told you, Kid. You have a mom who cares about you; that’s not something you just throw away.”

 

He sits up stiffly in his seat, his small hands grasping at the denim of his jeans. He opens his mouth, but then closes it again and looks out the window.

 

You stare out the windshield, grasping the steering wheel tight with both hands, and that’s when you notice it. The red thread, glowing brighter and brighter still. You swallow roughly, your throat suddenly dry.

 

Maybe the kid’s right, maybe you should turn back.

 

Your breath comes out in a rush, knuckles turning white. You nudge the bug faster down the highway. The sooner you drop the kid off, the sooner you can be back to your life in Boston.



You shove your hand under your thigh as the kid guides you through the quiet streets of his small town and towards a two-storey house grander than anything your ten year old mind ever would have been able to dream of. “Damn,” you say, a low whistle falling past your lips.

 

“Language, Emma,” Henry says before opening the door and jumping up from his seat. You lift your left hand to open the car door and follow him up the walk, but freeze when you see that not only is the red thread tied snugly around your finger still glowing, but you can see it running up the path alongside the kid, and continuing underneath the closed door and inside the house.

 

You take a shaky breath and force the car door open. You’ll just make sure the kid is safe and then you’re gone. The whole idea of soulmates is bullshit anyway -- it doesn’t matter who is behind that door, it changes nothing.

 

But then the door opens, and she’s beautiful . She rushes toward Henry with so much worry, with so much love that it’s almost physically painful that the kid would want to throw this away.

 

She raises her gaze from her son to you. “You’re Henry’s birth mother?”

 

You want to laugh -- cry, even -- because of course the universe would have some sick sense of humor. Henry was never meant to be yours, but here the world is, yet again, teasing you with a family that you could never hope to have.

 

“Hi,” you say, all other words sticking to the back of your throat.

 

. . .

 

The ground shakes and you race toward the collapsed opening of the mineshaft. The Mayor runs behind you yelling, “stop” to the men pulling debris from the mine. You intercept her before she can get any further, before she can hurt herself.

 

“My son is down there, Deputy, if you don’t get out of my way-” Regina snarls.

 

But you stand your ground, you don’t let her go any further. “I’m trying to do my job; I’m trying to find a way to Henry.”

 

“If you weren’t here he wouldn’t be down there at all,” she throws the words at you, aiming to hurt you. You haven’t known her long, but you’re already understanding the way her anger works, how she tries to make everyone else hurt just as much as she is.

 

“You made him feel like he had something to prove, that’s why he’s down there right now. Don’t put this on me,” you say as calmly as you can. There’s something about her that gets under your skin, and you only have so much patience.

 

Her eyes fill with tears and she opens her mouth to argue, but deflates instead, bottom lip trembling. “This isn’t going to help him,” she gestures between the two of you, red thread swaying with the movement. And sometimes it still stuns you to see it red instead of grey, connected to someone so very real. It’s not just an idea anymore.

 

If you’re connected to her then maybe there’s a reason. And maybe you can use that to your advantage to get along, at least for now, and work together to save your son.

 

“No, it’s not,” you agree. “So what are we going to do?



Regina looks down the air shaft with a determination, that makes you uncomfortable. “Lower me down,” she demands, and no, absolutely not.

 

“Let me go,” you tell her. “I can do this.” She studies you for a moment, stepping close and leaning in even closer. You can’t help that your eyes flicker to her lips before you can stop yourself. “I can do this.”

 

She continues to stare at you, but you can see the moment that she gives in. She takes a step back. It’s a relief, and yet not one at all, once there is some space between you. You can catch your breath, but suddenly feel cold and can’t stop the shiver that runs down your spine.

 

“Go save Henry; bring him back safe ,” she tells you, but it’s more a threat than anything else. But you can’t blame her, you feel the same way.

 

“Okay.” You step back and get into the harness, and lower yourself into the shaft. “I’ve got this,” you tell her before you disappear from her sight.

 

With the light of your flashlight you can’t see more than a few feet below you. “Henry?” you call out, your voice echoing in the small space. “Henry!”

 

It’s another minute of more darkness of the only sound being your own voice thrown back at you, when you hear him, soft at first and then louder. “Emma!”

 

“Henry!” you yell again and a moment later you can see his face in the darkness, standing below you. “Oh Kid, it sure is good to see you.”

 

You pull him into your arms and give a strong tug on the cable connecting you to the surface. A moment later and you’re both being pulled to the top,

 

The first thing you hear when you reach the surface is a sob coming from Regina. She lifts Henry out of your arms and into her own.

 

You pull yourself to your feet and unbuckle the harness, letting it drop to the ground. You let out a deep breath that you didn’t even know you were holding. Henry shoots you a grin, before his mother pulls his attention away again.

 

Regina may have questionable morals sometimes, but if one thing is clear it’s that she loves her son. There’s no denying that, not anymore.

 

You pick the harness up from the ground and walk over to the firetruck and pass it over to Marco, and he takes it from you with a smile. “You saved the boy, Deputy,” he reminds her cheerfully. You duck your head, smiling.

 

But you wouldn’t have been able to do it if you and Regina weren’t able to set your differences aside. You were able to work together, if only just barely, but it’s progress nonetheless. You look at them a moment later, the Mayor and your son, him still wrapped in her arms as she presses a kiss to his forehead, and you don’t know how you ever thought of leaving this town.

 

. . .

 

Cora and Hook may have the compass, but you have one of your own; the thread tied to your finger grows more vibrant the closer you and Mary Margaret get to the portal.

 

“I think it’s this way,” Mary Margaret says, pointing off to the right.

 

“No,” you say with certainty, “it’s this way.” You don’t stop to see whether she’s still following or has stopped to contemplate the other direction. The red thread is leading you home, and there’s nothing you trust in more than that.

 

After another few minutes of walking you can make out the forms of Hook and Cora where they stand on the other side of the portal. You take off at a sprint, Mary Margaret following behind you.

 

The compass is clasped between Hook and Cora’s hands, and they look to the portal in front of them. “They’re about to jump,” you shout.

 

“No, they’re not,” Mary Margaret says from behind you, and a second later and arrow flies by your head and snatches onto the compass, flinging it out of Cora’s grasp.

 

You’re in front of the portal now, and for a moment you’re mesmerized at the way your red soulmate thread sinks into the black and blue abyss. You wonder for a moment if you truly need to get to the compass, or if you can jump just like this and be led home.

 

But it’s too big of a risk to take.

 

“The compass! Get it!” Mary Margaret tells you, shooting an arrow at Cora in distraction.

 

You run around the portal, red thread being pulled through the swirling water looking substance. Hook stands, sword drawn, blocking your path. He smirks at you, his eyes traveling up and down your body. You bring your sword forward, your pure disgust at his existence fueling the force of your swing.

 

He blocks the blow with a smug smirk, but that only makes you more determined, and as you swing your sword again he stumbles backwards. You bring your sword forward, faster and faster, trying to ignore the strain in your arm.

 

But your arm is trembling on his next swing and your attempt to block the blow has your sword flying out of your grasp. He points his sword at your chest and presses it forward -- not hard enough to break your skin, but hard enough that is has stumbling onto your back.

 

You smack roughly onto the ground, something hard digging into your back. “Any last words, Swan?” he asks cockily, the tip of the sword resting on your throat. But you just smile up at him, grin growing as confusion comes over his face.

 

“I win,” you say, kicking him in the chest and pulling the compass out from underneath your back. You roll to your feet, smacking the compass against the side of Hook’s head when he tries to make a grab for it. You hear him fall to the ground behind you as you run to Mary Margaret’s side.

 

“I’ll finally give my daughter what she wants most -- Snow White’s heart,” Cora says, her hand reaching toward Mary Margaret’s chest. But you make it just in time, and shove Mary Margaret away.

 

Cora’s hand reaches into your chest instead, and it’s unlike anything you’ve felt before. The tug in your chest almost has you falling to your knees as Cora pulls again and again. But your heart is staying firmly in place.

 

The frustrated growl that falls past Cora’s lips is almost inhuman, and just when you think you can’t take the pain of another tug on your heart, the thread wrapped around your finger grows brighter. A mix of purple and white light wraps around the red thread, moving from your hand, up your arm and your chest, to the hand that resides within it. The light appears to wrap around Cora’s wrist and a moment later she is being thrown backwards.

 

“Woah,” you gasp, hand rubbing at your chest.

 

“Woah,” Snow repeats, eyes wide.

 

But there’s no time to discuss what just happened, and instead you hold out your hand, compass resting on your palm. “Let’s go home,” you say. Mary Margaret nods and takes your hand, the compass held in between.

 

Then you jump.



The portal is dark as you fall through it; only your soulmate thread, with its wisps of white and purple magic wrapped around it light the way.

 

Before you know it you can see the blue of the sky and the green of the trees, and you reach your hand up to the stone ledge of the well and lift yourself up.

 

“Mom?” Henry’s voice is disbelieving as he watches you climb out of the well. “Mom,” he says, again, and races forward, his small arms wrapping around your waist. “You’re alive I knew you would make it!”

 

You wrap your arms around Henry and pull him closer to you. Gold is watching both you and Mary Margaret, as he walks away, back towards town. Ruby is getting up from the ground, and when she sees Snow, jumps gracefully to her feet and bounds over, pulling her friend into a hug.

 

“What happened?” you ask, trying to make sense of the group around you.

 

Henry looks up at you with a grin. “She saved you,” he says excitedly, looking over to where his other mother is propped up against a tree. The thread between you is still swirling with that white and purple magic, all the way from your hand to hers.

 

Yes, she really did save you, didn’t she?

 

She looks up at you with tired eyes, yet a smile that is genuine nonetheless. “Welcome back,” she says.

 

“Thanks,” you say, smiling, leaning your head to rest on the top of Henry’s.

 

With your son in your arms and your soulmate standing before you, it really is good to be back.

 

. . .

 

You follow Regina into the mine, the breath short in your chest, not just from the foot of space that separates you, -- the red thread glowing strong -- but from, what she informs you is, the magic being sucked out of the air.

 

She leads you around another dimly lit corner, and you find what you’ve been looking for: a softball sized diamond, glowing blue with magic. But now you have a way out, and if you’re sure of anything it’s that Regina can stop the failsafe from destroying Storybrooke.

 

Regina walks forward, inspecting the diamond, and despite the possibility that this could all end in disaster, for the first time you feel safe with Regina -- because of Regina -- and if that isn’t a sign that things between you are changing then you don’t know what is.

 

“Slowing the device is going to require all of the strength I have,” she tells you, meeting your eyes. It takes a moment for her meaning to sink in, and then it’s as if time simultaneously speeds up and slows down. But she can’t be saying what you think she’s saying, because all the faith that you have in her to stop the device never resulted in her death. In a thousand different scenarios you could never think of her dying.

 

But the truth is clear in her dark eyes, as is her determination. “You’re not coming with us, are you? When you said goodbye to Henry, you were saying goodbye.” You hope with everything in you that she gives you any other answer than the one you’re expecting.

 

“He knows I love him, doesn’t he?” she says, and it’s all the conformation you need.

 

“Regina, no, there’s got to be another way.” Your mind is racing trying to think of one.

 

She shakes her head, and gives you the smallest and sadest of smiles.

 

“What am I supposed to tell Henry?” you ask, you plead , because if anything can make her fight harder it’s Henry.

 

“Tell him that in the end it wasn’t too late for me to do the right thing,” she tells you. And she’s so resigned to her fate, happy even, to pay the price if it means saving Henry’s life. But she can’t seem to see that there has to be another way. Henry can’t live without his mother and neither can-

 

“Regina, please.”

 

“Everyone looks at me as the Evil Queen -- including my son. Let me die as Regina.” There’s nothing you can say to that, so you turn around before you can talk yourself out of leaving. Because it’s suddenly so clear -- and how it’s taken you until now to figure it out, you’ll never know -- that somehow, despite everything that the two of you have been through, or maybe in spite of it, she has managed to make her way into your heart.

 

Maybe it’s this soulmate business, maybe you never stood a chance. But maybe it’s just Regina, and soulmate or not, you were always going to care for her.

 

You spin back to face her; if this is the end then maybe she deserves to know that even with everything that she’s done, there was still someone to care for her, there was still someone that she was tied to, someone that was glad to have been tied to her.

 

“Regina,” you say, not knowing where to begin. But at the same moment she let’s her magic loose on the device, purple melding with blue, and there’s no time for confessions, for declarations. There’s only time for finding another way.

 

So you turn on your heel and do what you’re good at and run -- but this time it’s for all the right reasons.



You race back to the mine with David, Mary Margaret and Henry with a plan, with one last idea to keep Henry’s other mother, and your soulmate, from dying.

 

“What are you doing here?” Regina demands when you round the corner and her eyes fall on Henry. Her eyes dart to you, accusing.

 

“We found another way,” you tell her, grasping the black leather pouch holding the bean, tightly in your hands. Relief floods your stomach at finally saying the words.

 

“What is it you plan to do, Miss Swan?” she asks, her voice strained. You can see the tension in her body, just how badly her hands and arms are shaking, and you know if you’re going to stop the failsafe from taking everyone in this town you need to act soon.

 

“We’re going to throw it into a portal,” you say, nodding your head at the diamond. “We have a magic bean.” You open the pouch and reach your hand in-

 

And nothing. You have no magic bean, and now you have no plan.

 

“Emma, what’s wrong?” Henry asks, immediately sensing something is not right.

 

“It’s gone,” you whisper. Henry’s eyes widen in fear.

 

“Emma?” David says as he moves to your side.

 

“Hook,” you say, meeting David’s eyes before turning your gaze to Regina. “He double crossed us.”

 

Tears glisten in Regina’s eyes; maybe she had held out some hope after all. “I can’t contain it much longer,” she says. Her hands are shaking more than before, and the red thread connecting you is trembling so much that you can feel its soft vibrations in your finger.

 

“Mom?” Henry says, carefully starting towards Regina. He presses into her side, his small arms wrapping around her waist. She leans into his embrace as much as she can without severing the connection of her magic to the device.

 

“I’m sorry,” she gasps, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I wish I was strong enough.” Your heart physically aches at the words, your connection calling you to her so strongly that you take a step towards her. “But I’m not.” And now you can’t fight your own tears. Regina Mills is the strongest person you know, and if this is one task that she can’t accomplish then maybe there really is no one who-

 

You take a sharp breath, and move forward until only the device separates you from her. “You may not be strong enough, but maybe we are,” you say.

 

You can see the light in her eyes as she takes in your meaning, the hope showing in the lines of her face. You raise your hands until they’re a mirror of her own, the blue and purple light of the device and her magic casting shadows on your thread, but the light of either still isn’t as bright as the thread between you and her. It’s comforting and reassuring, and as you combine your magic with hers you know that you can do this together .

 

When your magic mixes with hers you feel it. The sudden strength of your combined power makes you gasp, and you hear her own intake of breath over the buzz of the magic between you.

 

Without thought, your left hand drifts closer to her, and her right hand seems to close the distance without her notice. The moment your fingers brush, your soulmate thread fully connected, you are thrown back from each other with one last blast of power from the device as it’s finally destroyed.

 

You can feel your back protest as you quickly push up on your hands. Her eyes are already searching for yours, and when they find you her smile is blinding.

 

You return her smile with one of your own, a burst of exhilaration and joy bubbling up within you.

 

And yes, you really are stronger together .

 

. . .

 

You stand at the edge of town as everyone prepares to be sent back to the Enchanted Forest, leaving you and Henry to be all on your own.

 

She takes her hand in yours, eyes filling with tears as she smiles sadly at you. The littlest fingers on your hands brush, leaving nothing but a bright red circle around each of your fingers, warming as your fingers touch. You wonder at how she doesn’t feel it.

 

Your eyes fill with tears of your own and you tear your gaze from your joined hands and up to her eyes. You try your best to remember it all: the warmth of her hand in yours, the tears leaving shining trails down her cheeks and catching on the scar just above her lip. Every shuddering breath and whispered word.

 

Because you don't love her, but there’s a feeling deep in your gut that tells you that you could have. Now you'll never know, and that hurts more than it should.

 

You play it over and over in your head as you drive away, focusing on the red thread tied to the finger resting on the steering wheel until the moment that the thread dulls to grey and you remember nothing at all.

 

. . .

 

One morning you wake, Walsh still asleep beside you, and feel a soft pulsing in your left hand. You open your eyes to see the thread, while just as grey as the night before, is now glowing, shining -- no longer the lifeless color it has been your entire life.

 

You have no idea what any of it means until a pirate shows up on your doorstep a few days later and you find yourself once again on your way to Maine, leaving yet another life behind.

 

. . .

 

The thread tied to your finger begins to thrum just seconds before a glass shatters on the floor of the diner and your eyes are drawn to hers. She stares at your son -- sitting at the table, startled by the sound -- her eyes glistening.

 

Your breath catches in your chest. “Regina.” It’s the first time you’ve spoken her name in over a year, and you wonder if the feel of her name rolling off your tongue has always felt as right as it does now.

 

There’s a tremble in her arms, and you sense that the glass she dropped isn’t going to be the only thing to shatter. You push back roughly from the table, nearly losing your balance as you walk to her. “Regina, we need to talk.”

 

You follow her into the back hallway, watching as the thread between you glows and sways. You’d gotten used to the sight of a red thread connecting two people a long time ago, but there’s something about your own that leaves you breathless, and you try your best to avert your eyes when she turns to face you.

 

But the pain in her eyes pulls your attention away in an instant.

 

“He looked right through me,” Regina says, a tremor in her voice. You want to pull her close, to take her threaded hand in yours. But it’s been a year since you’ve seen her, and it’s not something she would have let you get away with back then, and especially not now. Yet you still can’t help but to angle your body closer to hers, to lean forward just the slightest bit.

 

She takes a half step closer to you without seeming to realize. “Will figure it out, Regina. We always do,” you assure her.

 

She’s silent for a moment, wrapping her thin arms around her chest. “But what if we don’t? What if my own son never remembers me?” The words are spoken so softly that you have to lean in even closer to hear.

 

“Don’t think like that,” you tell her. “We will get his memories back.”

 

“But what if, Emma?” There’s a steel to her voice, that clues you into the deeper meaning in her question.

 

“I will never take him away from you again if I don’t have to, Regina. Whether he knows it right now or not, you are his mother.” You do touch her now, your left hand pulling her right hand free, fingers lacing together. She seems to draw some comfort from the contact, as the tension in her shoulders lessen, even if she doesn’t fully understand why.

 

“If he never gets his memories back, I’m not convinced that Storybrooke is the best place for him to be,” you say. She immediately tries to pull her hand from yours, but you hold on tight. “I’m not taking him anywhere without first talking to you, better yet I’m not taking him anywhere without you.”

 

She stops fighting and lets her hand relax in yours. “Okay?” you ask.

 

After a moment she nods. “Okay.” You meet her eyes, with a small smile, and hope that somewhere, deep down, she believes in the two of you just as strongly as you do. “Okay,” she says again.

 

. . .

 

She’s sitting across from you in a booth tucked into the corner of Granny’s, smiling into the distance as she brings her cup of coffee to her lips, taking the daintiest of sips.

 

“You can- you can see them can’t you? The threads?” she asks, dark eyes suddenly piercing. You cough into your Coke and try to look anywhere, but at her.

 

“Why would you think that?”

 

She tilts her head, a twinkle in her wide brown eyes. “I see the way you look sometimes, like you're watching something that isn't there. Only something is there, and only you can see it.”

 

You take a deep breath, shoulders rising and falling in answer. Regina only nods; it's answer enough.

 

She takes another sip of her coffee, staring at her hands wrapped around the warm mug. “Do you think- Do I-” Her voice shakes with a vulnerability that few ever get to hear, and your chest tightens in the best and worst ways at the sound of it.

 

Because there's only ever one question that follows the unveiling of someone's sight .

 

“Do I have a thread?” While it's not the exact question you know is coming, it's too close for comfort.

 

You find it as hard to meet her eyes as she finds it to meet yours.

 

“Well, yeah. I mean, everybody does.”

 

She sucks in a sharp breath. “Okay.” You do meet her eyes then, and the hesitant yet blinding smile she gives you causes the thread, now only the length of the table that separates you, to glow the brightest it's ever been.

 

You finish your lunch in relative silence, but her smile never goes away. She never does ask who? But the question will come, it always does.

 

. . .

 

“Robin’s thread is black,” Regina says out of nowhere one night, closing the oven door on her lasagna and setting the timer. She stands across from where you sit at the island and takes a sip of her wine.

 

“Is-is it?” Your surprise causing you to choke on your words.

 

“His wife -- his soulmate -- died back in the enchanted forest,” she says, and you sense there is something more she isn’t saying, something big -- like the way animals can always sense a disaster on the horizon; a quiet peace before it all comes crashing down.

 

“You said I have a thread? But what are the odds we’ll ever meet? What if-” She runs a hand through her hair, the other tightening around her wine glass.You’d laugh -- both at the way that her hair now sticks up at an odd angle above her right ear, and at the fact that she thinks she’ll never meet her soulmate when you’re in fact sitting right in front of her -- if you didn’t think she would completely misunderstand the gesture.

 

“Is my soulmate even in Storybrooke? Or in the outside world, or god-forbid in the Enchanted Forest?” Her words come out in a rush and you can tell she’s been stewing on them for far too long.

 

“Regina,” you say, reaching for her hand that has found its way to tightly gripping the edge of the countertop. You run your thumb along her knuckles, marveling at the red thread, tightly connecting your fingers, your hands, yourselves together.

 

“You say I have a soulmate, Emma. But what if we never meet? What if I hold out hope for something that never happens, when Robin is here? No one is going to show up and take him away.”

 

Her eyes are wide and lined with tears, and your heart aches at that sadness in hers. “Regina-” you say again, because you can change everything, you could tell her the truth. She gives your hand a squeeze before letting go and wiping at her eyes before the tears can fall. You watch as the thread between you grows longer again.

 

You want so much to tell her, but that’s not the way it works. If she wanted it to be you she would have feelings for you. She would love you just as strongly as you love her. One kiss and you would both know.

 

“I don’t know what you want me to say. You have a soulmate, that’s all I can tell you. I can’t take you to them, and even if I could, there’s more to seeing your thread than just meeting. You have to want it to be them as much as they want it to be you .” Your words are borderline pleading and you hope she hears it just as much as you hope that she doesn’t.

 

Because that’s what she’s turned you into, a bleeding mess of contradictions that knows what she wants with no way of ever being able to fully have it.

 

“But Robin is here,” she says again, and you feel your head being placed beneath the guillotine. “Robin is here and he cares about me. Maybe that can be enough.” She sits on the stool beside you.

 

“If that is what you want,” you say, and see her nod out of the corner of your eye.

 

“He makes me happy,” she says with the finality of cutting the rope and letting the blade fall.

 

. . .

 

Henry opens the door of the mansion a moment after you knock. “Hi, Ma,” he says grinning at you.

 

“Hey, Kid.” You ruffle his hair as you step past him, and grin as he protests, smoothing his hair back down.

 

“Mom’s in the kitchen,” he says as he closes the door.

 

You send him a smile over your shoulder. “Thanks, Kid.”

 

As you make your way to the kitchen, the murmuring of voices joins the soft thud of your boots against the hardwood. You slow your pace, not wanting to interrupt anything. But a giggle -- that you would swear came from Regina, although you’ve never heard her giggle before -- draws you closer.

 

You step close enough so that you can see into the kitchen without being seen yourself, and though it’s probably better that you interrupt them rather than spy, the scene before you has you frozen in place.

 

There’s another giggle -- and yes, that was definitely Regina. You can’t help but notice how adorable the sound is despite the situation. But bile rises up in your throat as you look at her. Her back leaning into the counter and Robin standing with very little space -- too little -- between them, his arms wrapped around her.

 

He whispers something in her ear, before placing a kiss below it, his kisses trailing down her neck.

 

You can’t tell if you’re going to vomit or punch the wall beside you -- or both. But Regina would kill you if you threw up on her pristine floors or left a hole in the cream colored wall. So you swallow back the bile and clench your hands into fists at your sides.

 

The red thread the connects you to her shines brightly even as she’s wrapped up in Robin’s arms, and that is what has you taking a step forward, but to say what, you don’t know.

 

“Shit,” Henry says behind you before you can make yourself seen, and you’d correct him on his language if you weren’t still seething. “I should have to told you about that, but I didn’t think they’d be-” His face scrunches up before he can finish.

 

He walks into the kitchen without saying another word to you, effectively breaking Regina and Robin apart. “Can you maybe keep it to your bedroom,” he waves his hand toward the second floor, “or at least keep it to rooms that I don’t frequent?” He walks to the fridge without looking at his mother.

 

Regina opens her mouth to respond, but she’s stopped when Henry says, “Ma’s here.” You take that as your cue to enter the kitchen. Regina’s eyes meet yours briefly before looking away -- and were her cheeks that red before you came out of your hiding spot? You can’t help but wonder what that means.

 

“Sorry,” Regina mutters. She meets your eyes again before looking over to Henry, and you can’t quite tell which one of you she’s talking to.

 

“Well, I suppose I should be going,” Robin says, breaking the awkward tension that had filled the room. He leans forward and presses a chaste kiss to Regina’s lips; you can’t help but notice how she doesn’t lean into the kiss, how she doesn’t move at all.

 

Robin pulls back before leaving the kitchen. No one says a word until the front door thuds closed a moment later.

 

“Right,” Henry says, drawing out the word. “I finished my homework so I’m gonna go play my Playstation for a while.”

 

“Of course, dear,” Regina says with a smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes.

 

You’re struggling to figure out what it all means. She seemed perfectly happy with Robin until you had interrupted, and now she can barely meet your eyes.

 

“You know what? I should go. I just remembered that I have-” you start. But she gives you an eye roll that is closer to her normal self than she’s been in the last few minutes.

 

“Miss Swan, I may not have your superpower, but I always know when you’re lying,” she says, an eyebrow raised, daring you to disagree with her.

 

“Don’t call me Miss Swan,” you say, and make your way over to the fridge and open the doors. You take in all of the green, your face scrunching up in disgust. You close the doors and spin back to face her. “You haven’t called me that in ages.”

 

Regina folds her arms across her chest. “Then don’t lie to me.”

 

You let out an exasperated sigh. “Yes, Your Majesty.”

 

“Well I’m glad we’re in agreement,” she says with a grin that disarms you just enough that the scene with Robin is instantly cleared from your mind.

 

She walks over to a cupboard and opens it, pulling a bag of cheese puffs from the top shelf and pouring some into a bowl. She pops one into her mouth before handing you the bowl. “Don’t tell our son I have these. The entire bag would be gone in a minute,” she says, putting the bag back in it’s hiding spot.

 

You put a cheese puff in your mouth, grinning all the while. “Now come with me, dear,” she says, and you follow without hesitation.

 

. . .

 

“Just spit it out, Regina.” You’re standing outside of Granny’s, no one around except Ruby, taking her break at one of the outside tables.

 

“I’ve heard that those that can see the threads can do more than just see them -- they can cut them too,” she says, hands tucked into the pockets of her peacoat.

 

You suck in a sharp breath. “That’s not something that I’ve ever done. That’s not something I ever want to do,” you say, taking a step back instinctively.

 

“I just can’t help wondering why this ,” she pulls her right hand from her pocket and shakes it for effect, the thread between you waving through the air, “something that I cannot even see, should determine who I am destined to be with.”

 

“You said it yourself, Regina. You can’t see it, and you’ll only ever see it if you share True Love’s Kiss, so it doesn’t really decide much of anything,” you say, words hollow, just as they always have a way of being whenever you’re discussing this with her .

 

“So what if I want to be done with it all? Would you cut it if I asked you to, Emma?” she says, and you can’t breath. It’s sudden and painful and you can’t help but reach your hand up to your throat in panic.

 

She’s looking at you with such pleading hope in her eyes that the air comes rushing back because here she is, asking you to help her -- to help her be happy .

 

“I don’t know, Regina,” you say.

 

She opens her mouth, before closing it and nodding. You stand in awkward silence for a moment before she finally says, “Just think about it.” She turns and walks back down the street. When she rounds the corner, you fall into the nearest chair, banging your head down on the cold surface of the table.

 

There is a shuffling and then a scraping of metal on concrete. “That’s a tough break, Em,” Ruby says. You lift your head to see her popping a fry into her mouth. “Your own soulmate asking you to cut their thread.” She shakes her head before downing another fry.

 

“Wait, you can see them? All this time and you’ve never said anything?” you ask, the sudden twisting of your gut making room for the surprise that Ruby’s revelation brings.

 

“Just like you’ve never said anything?” Ruby raises an eyebrow, and, well, fair enough. “What are you going to do?” And the gut wrenching pain is back full force, thanks Rubes.

 

“I don’t know,” you say, burying your face into your hands. What difference will it make anyway if you cut the thread? You’ve always believed in fighting your fate and making your own destiny and all that stuff that feels like absolute bullshit right about now.

 

Because thread or no thread, it’s her. It was always going to be her.

 

“I don’t know, Ruby. I don’t know.”

 

. . .

 

“It’s not just about you, you know?” the words burst from you as you push open the door to Regina’s office in Town Hall. She looks up from her desk, black rimmed glasses resting of the end of her nose.

 

“What isn’t about me, dear?” she asks with amusement, leaning back in her chair and taking her glasses off to set them on the desk.

 

“Cutting your thread,” you say, pacing toward her desk, only to turn around again once you’ve reached it. You take a few steps away before turning to face her. “There is someone on the other side of that thread, whether you can see them or not, Regina. If I do this, it’s not just effecting you, but them as well.”

 

“I know that,” Regina says softly. “But who wouldn't be better off without the Evil Queen as their soulmate?” Her words are resigned, and it feels as if suddenly your stomach has been filled with lead. Because who wouldn't want her? Who wouldn't look at her and see a woman who has fought so hard she thought she would break, just to make up for her sins? A woman who has managed to come out on the other side strong and resilient, and yet so impossibly soft?

 

Who could look at Regina and not see a woman who loves with everything she is, and who would not hope to have even an ounce of that love given to them?

 

You open your mouth to say something -- anything -- to make her understand that she is so much more precious than she realizes. But your throat constricts and instead you step forward, lifting her hand from her desk and taking it in both of yours, your thumb rubbing gentle circles on her soft skin.

 

“But we're not talking about the Evil Queen, we're talking about you , Regina. The Evil Queen is part of your past, but she's not who you are now.

 

“Whoever your soulmate is, don’t you want to give them a choice?” You can’t fight the tremble in your voice, and look down at your joined hands. The thread wrapped snugly around your fingers looks so right that your heart aches at the sight of it.

 

You look up, your gaze falling to her lips, and you lean closer without meaning to. It would be so easy, you could end all of this right now if only you were to move those last few inches closer-

 

You jerk back in an instant, untangling your fingers from hers. Dread fills your stomach and makes its way up your throat; you swallow back the vile taste of it. Suddenly her fears make a lot more sense. What if you were to close the distance and press your lips to hers, and yet she still couldn’t see ?

 

She looks up at you with hurt in her eyes, as you pull away, and you grind your teeth together in the fight to hold your ground. “I’m sorry, Emma,” she says, her voice as soft and vulnerable as you’ve ever heard it. “I never should have asked-”

 

“Will you be happy if I do this? Will it make you happy to have it gone?” You grind a palm against your forehead, eyes clenched shut. She’s finally giving you an out. But… ‘I’m in.’ and ‘You are?’  and a smile so big it could block out the sun fills your mind.

 

Of course you were going to give in. How could you not?

 

“I hope so,” she says, voice still so soft. You reach forward and brush a strand of her dark hair that had fallen forward back behind her ear.

 

“Okay then,” you croak out, letting your knuckles brush over her jaw before retracting your hand. If you didn’t know better you would almost swear she leaned in closer as you pulled away.

 

You turn and walk towards the door, only stopping once you’ve pulled it open, and lean against the frame. “I have no idea how to cut it. But find me a way and I’ll do it.” The last thing you see is her nodding in response before you turn away and pull the door closed behind you.

 

. . .

 

“Are you being serious right now?” Ruby says, the words an angry hiss. You glance around the diner from where you sit at the far end of the counter, but no one is paying either of you any mind.

 

“It’s what she wants,” you say with a shrug. Ruby rolls her eyes.

 

“But what about what you want? Don’t even try and tell me you’re not in love with her, Emma Swan, anyone can see it.” Ruby’s eyes flash, and it’s times like this you can see the wolf behind her eyes.

 

“I’m not trying to deny it,” you say, dragging a fry through the ketchup on your plate before dropping it back down. “But it’s because I love her that I’m doing it. I want her to be happy, and sometimes when you love someone you have to set them free or some shit like that.” Ruby snorts.

 

“That doesn’t apply when your soulmate is oblivious and just needs more time to see what is right in front of them, to understand what it is that they already feel.” You have no doubt that she would be physically trying to shake some sense into you if it wouldn’t call attention to yourselves.

 

Ruby lets out a long sigh and leans her forearms on the counter on either side of your plate. “Maybe it will make her happy, maybe it won’t. But you need someone to look after your own happiness too.” She grips your wrist where it rests on the counter. “This is really going to hurt you, Emma.”

 

“I know it will,” you say. Maybe on a different day you’d try to argue your side more, but today you just feel tired. “I appreciate you looking after me, Ruby, I really do.” You give her a small smile, and pull your arm away to grab your wallet from your pocket. “But I’ve already told her that I’ll do it, and so when she figures out how to do it -- and she will -- then I’ll cut the thread between us.”

 

“Emma-” You shake your head and lay a couple bills on the counter.

 

“I’m not going back on my word.” You take a deep breath and get to your feet. “I should really get back to the station. Don’t worry about me so much.”

 

Ruby looks at you with so much sadness in her gaze that you nearly stumble into a chair in your haste to get away from it.

 

. . .

 

It’s nearly midnight when there’s a loud, incessant knocking on your front door. “What-” you rip the door open and your heart stutters when you focus on Regina standing before you. Her hair is tangled around her, her face void of any makeup, leaving nothing to hide the dark circles beneath her eyes.

 

You’ve hardly seen her in the two weeks since you’ve agreed to cut the thread between you, and while you knew she had to have been researching in that time, you didn’t think she would have given up sleep to do so.

 

But the shining light in her eyes, and the wide grin stretching her pale pink lips tells you just how well her searching has gone without even having to ask.

 

You sigh and step aside to let her in. “What do I have to do?”

 

“It’s simple really,” she says as she walks into the livingroom and pulls what looks like fancy scissors from her purse. “You cut it with these.” She holds them out, and with shaking hands you take them.

 

“A pair of scissors? Well, we could have tried this weeks ago and have been done with it,” you try to joke, but the words come out more angry and accusing than anything, and Regina looks at you with concern. For a moment she looks like she’s going to question you on it, before she swallows and turns her head away.

 

You take a deep breath to calm yourself as best as anyone can when they’re moments away from cutting their own soulmate thread. “So what’s so special about these scissors?” you ask, leaning against the wall and turning them over in your hands. “Are these real gold?”

 

You lift your head just in time to see her roll her eyes, biting her lip as she tries to hold back a smile. She reaches out and takes the scissors back; you suck in a sharp breath when your thread wrapped fingers brush.

 

“These aren’t just any scissors,” she tells you proudly. “These are the Shears of Destiny. They once belonged to the three fates, and can separate anyone from their destiny.” She holds them carefully in her hands, looking down at them as if they are something precious.

 

You’re cute when you’re being all knowledgeable , you almost say, but bite back the words. “So I just cut the thread and that’s that?” you ask instead.

 

She nods her head. “I think if anything will cut it, these will.”

 

You hold out your hand for the shears, fighting to keep your hand steady. She passes them over and you feel nauseous the moment they touch your skin. You knew you were going to have to do this eventually, but you still thought there was more time.

 

“Are you sure?” you ask, looking her in the eyes. “Once I do this, there’s no going back. I don’t know what exactly is going to happen; are you sure Robin’s worth this?” You feel the bile rise up your throat at the last question. Because while you have no claim to her, she is still your soulmate, and it’s hard to imagine a world where he has more importance in her life than you.

 

She takes a shaky breath. “It’s not just about him. Cut the thread, Emma.”

 

You close your eyes, unable to stop the tears that escape, leaving tracks down your cheeks. “Okay,” you say, and lift the shears. For the briefest of moments you’re tempted to cut the thread right next to your own hand, leaving no doubt that it’s your own thread that’s being cut, too.

 

Instead you reach out and lift the thread in the middle. You look at Regina and notice the tremble in her hands before she wraps them tightly across her chest, hiding them in her sides.

 

You open the shears, and pause. “Are you sure?” you whisper, fighting every urge to fling the shears across the room.

 

“Yes,” she chokes out, tears streaming down her face.

 

You close your eyes, take a deep breath, and let the shears fall closed.

 

The pain is instant. It’s sharp and burning, and you wonder if your finger might fall off right along with the thread. You drop the shears with a yelp, and watch as your vivid red thread turns grey, before turning black and falling like dust to the ground.

 

The air catches in your lungs and you take a deep, desperate breath, but feel nothing, no relief, and you’d swear this is what suffocating feels like. You clutch at your chest, your breaths come faster, shallow, before a wet sob is ripped from your chest.

 

Amist your own fight for air against the sobs rasping from your chest, you see Regina, slumped into the wall, cradling her hand, heaving sobs of her own. And even then, having no true connection to her, no fate to will you together, you still can’t help but feel the need to go to her, to comfort her.

 

But she’s not the only one suffering from this.

 

“You need to go,” you manage to say between each ragged breath. She doesn’t hear you, still focused on the finger cradled in front of her. “Regina.” She startles at her name. “You need to leave.” The words are clearer than you thought you were capable of.

 

She looks at you blankly, her eyes wet and ringed red. “Leave,” you say again. Her head rolls forward in semblance of a nod, and she stumbles forward from the wall. You hear the door close with a soft thud a moment later.

 

Any composure you’d managed to gain in the last thirty seconds is gone in an instant. You drop to the floor, barely noticing the sharp pain in your knee as it smacks against the floor. You let out another sob and pull your knees to your chest and wrap your arms tightly around yourself. It’s only then that you notice the dark ring around your finger where the red thread used to be, a charred reminder of what you can never get back.

 

. . .

 

Your phone rings again, your mother’s name flashing across the screen, and you reach over to where it sits on your nightstand and silence the call. You close your eyes, burrowing deeper under the blankets.

 

A blaring jingle breaks the silence again a minute later. You groan and open your eyes and reach for the phone and accept the call.

 

“Hi, Mom,” you say, the words sounding just as miserable as you feel.

 

“Oh, Emma. Your father told me that you’d called in sick again,” Snow says worriedly. “Do you need to me to come over? Do you need me to bring you anything?” The questions are fired off in quick succession, a shuffling coming from over the line and you get the feeling she’s preparing to leave the loft at any moment.

 

“I’m fine, Mom,” you lie. “It’s just a head cold; it will be gone soon enough.” You pull the blankets over your head, still pressing the phone against your ear.

 

“Are you sure?” Snow asks, sceptical.

 

“I promise. I just need to rest right now,” you hint, trying to end the call as soon as possible and still manage to keep Snow from coming over.

 

“Yes, that is probably the best thing for you. But if you need anything call me and I will be right over with it,” she says. Her voice is so caring and loving that your chest aches with it.

 

“You’ll be the first one I go to,” you say.

 

“Alright. I love you, Emma,” she tells you.

 

“I love you, too, Mom.” You hang up the phone and drop it on the bed. You close your eyes again, but not quickly enough to miss the black ring around your finger. Tears fill your eyes, and you roll over, pining your hand beneath you.

 

But it makes no difference. The image of your red thread turning to dust is emblazoned in your mind.

 

. . .

 

You’re in the diner, Snow and David sit across from you in the booth. A breeze filters in from the door as it opens and closes again.

 

“No,” Ruby says loud enough from her place behind the counter that multiple people’s heads turn at the sound, including yours. Your eyes follow Ruby’s glare to where they land on the person standing in front of the recently opened door.

 

Your breath catches in your throat at the sight of Regina. Her skin is pale, eyes wide as she gazes at you.

 

“Don’t even think about it,” Ruby growls at Regina. But she doesn’t move, doesn’t appear to have heard the words at all, and it’s not until Ruby steps in front of her, blocking her view, that her eyes leave you.

 

“What is all that about?” Snow asks, as she watches the display by the door over her shoulder, before turning back to you. “Are you okay, Emma? You don’t look so well.”

 

“I-” Your voice is hoarse, you clear your throat and try again. “I’m fine,” you answer, ignoring her first question all together.

 

Your eyes are pulled back to Regina, where she’s side stepping around Ruby to make her way to you.

 

Not here. Not now. Maybe if you were alone you could try and keep yourself together long enough to say a few words. But in front of your parents, a handful of gossip happy dwarfs, and other members of the town, you know you’re sure to break.

 

Because there’s nothing where your thread should be. No pleasant humming, no warmth that the nearness of her had brought on. That alone is enough to bring tears to your eyes, but seeing her standing there with such desperation to just make it your side, and the absolute agony of not being able to do so, has you fighting against the sob rising up in your chest.

 

Ruby turns to look at you, and the pain you feel must be written plain as day across your face, as she does what no sane person would do, and grabs Regina tightly by the arm.

 

“Unhand me at once, Miss Lucas,” Regina snarls and yanks her arm away. Her gaze is gone from you long enough for you to slide out of the booth without her notice.

 

“I’m sorry, I need to go,” you whisper to Mary Margaret and David, and turn toward the back hallway.

 

“Emma? What-” Your mother’s confusion is clear in her voice, but you don’t stop to explain. What could you say after all?

 

“You’ve done enough damage,” you hear Ruby say, her voice quieter now, but closer.

 

“Emma,” Regina cries out as you make your way around the corner and into a cloud of white smoke.

 

. . .

 

“Did you and mom get in a fight?” Henry asks as you settle onto the couch across from the tv, dinner plate resting on your lap.

 

“No. Why would you think that?”

 

“You’re never around anymore,” he says, and you can’t keep the hurt from your eyes. “Not like that. You’re still around me all the time. But it’s never the three of us anymore. I thought we’d become a family, you know? Just me, you and Mom.” His smile is wistful, and there’s nothing you wouldn’t give to go back to those days, to Friday movie nights, and Sunday dinners.

 

Maybe someday you’ll get there again, but right now you need time.

 

“I miss it too, Kid,” you say and ruffle his hair. He pushes your hand away with a grimace.

 

“I think Mom misses them, too. I hear her at night when she thinks I’m asleep. She cries herself to sleep almost every night. Something’s wrong and I don’t know what, but she was happy when it was just the three of us. Maybe she’d be happier if you started coming over more, if it was the three of us again.

 

“I don’t know what’s going on between you two, but I think someone needs to fix it.”

 

You swallow a bite of chicken and look at the tv without seeing it. Regina’s not happy? Maybe even if she didn’t want to be tied to anyone, she’s still feeling the effects as much as you.

 

You flex your left hand, and there’s no thread to sway at the movement, and a pang of longing sears through your chest. You miss the thread; you miss her .

 

“I’ll see what I can do, Kid.” The answer seems to be enough to appease him, as he turns his attention to the bright colored cartoon on the screen.

 

. . .

 

You look down at your scuffed black boots after you’ve knocked on the door. There’s still time, you can still leave before she even knows you were here. Your eyes dart from the front door to the path leading up to the mansion. Your stomach twists in indecision-

 

Then the door opens leaving you no choice but to look up into surprised brown eyes. “Emma?” Her voice is soft and hesitant, as if she’s afraid that if she speaks too loud you’ll disappear right before her, like you were never there at all.

 

“Hi.” The word comes out just as softly. You toe the edge of the welcome mat with your boot, mind suddenly blank.

 

“Come in,” she says, and you follow her without thought, tucking your hands into the pocket of your red leather jacket, your armor.

 

“I was afraid you were avoiding me,” she says once you reach the sitting room.

 

You shrug, sinking down into the sofa, and taking your hands out of your pockets only to fold them tightly across your chest. “I- I just needed some space, Regina.”

 

She nods and takes a seat on the opposite couch. “I can understand that.” She falls silent after that, her lips twitching several times in the moment of silence that follows, a clear sign that she’s struggling as much with what to say next as you are.

 

“How have you been?” you ask at last, looking at the space beside her head.

 

“I’ve been good,” she says, and your eyes snap to hers at the obvious lie; you raise an eyebrow in disbelief. She sighs and runs her right hand delicately through her hair, the charcol like circle around her finger as clear as your own. She cradles her hand against her chest with her unmarked one when she sees the direction of your gaze.

 

“It’s been an adjustment,” Regina amends, rubbing at her mark unconsciously. “I didn’t realize how much I could feel it until it was gone. Now there’s just nothing. No warmth -- it’s like it’s numb, like I’ve killed something that was actually alive.” Her voice cracks on the last word, the sound causing your heart to tighten painfully in your chest. She couldn’t have described it better.

 

“But things are good with Robin?” You try so hard to keep your voice from sounding small that it rings out loudly in the quiet room, you flinch and lower your voice, asking, “Now that you’re not tied to anyone else?”

 

She smiles faintly, amusement in her eyes. “I thought you would have heard. I don’t know how exactly, but one of the merry men found himself with a magic bean. They all decided it was best if they went back to the Enchanted Forest.”

 

“Even Robin?” You feel sick. If her reason for cutting the thread is gone, then what was the point of ever putting yourselves through this. Your arms tighten around yourself, trying to keep the contents of your stomach where they are.

 

“Even Robin. He apologized for leaving, even asked if I wanted to come with them.” Maybe you can’t quite understand why she finds the situation amusing, but you can definitely find amusement in this.

 

“Now that is a sight I would pay money to see. Her Royal Majesty on the run with a bunch of bandits,” you say, and laugh your first genuine laugh in weeks.

 

“Now Miss Swan,” she says teasing, “I would have thought you’d have learned by now not to underestimate me. I could make it just fine living in the woods-”

 

You can’t help but burst out laughing, and pull your arms from around yourself to wipe at the tears that have fallen from your eyes. Regina’s shocked gasp draws your eyes back to her, to her eyes staring at the circle around your finger.

 

“You- you can see it?” you ask, a tremor in your voice, the lighthearted mood from a second ago gone in an instant.

 

Regina nods, standing and walking around the coffee table to sit beside you. Her right hand reaches out towards you before she drops it into her lap. “Is this why you tried to talk me out of it? Because you knew what my soulmate would go through?”

 

You feel her eyes on you, piercing through you, but you can’t stop yourself from looking away. “Something like that,” you mumble.

 

“Did you ever find out who it was?” she asks, and now she does touch you, her fingers threading lightly through your hair. You tense up at the contact before letting out a long breath, and relaxing into her touch.

 

“Yeah, I knew for years before it happened,” you say, closing your eyes and leaning into her side.

 

“Did you…” You look up at her, her lip pinched tightly between her teeth.

 

“Did I…” you prompt, but she still looks unsure. “Whatever it is you can ask.”

 

“Did you love them?” she whispers, dread in her voice.

 

“Yes,” you say. “Still do.” The tears come out of nowhere, silently spilling from your eyes.

 

“I’m sorry,” she says brokenly, and you wonder if she is finally beginning to see the truth, or if she just understands what she could have done to her own soulmate.

 

“It’s not your fault,” you say, and it’s true. You could have told her no, you could have refused her. Ruby warned you it would hurt, and you chose to do it anyway.

 

“Why would anyone do that to you? Did they have sight too? Did they know it was you when they did it?” Her words change from heartbreak to anger, and you take her left hand with your right, running soothing circles across the back of her hand. She takes a deep breath and deflates, leaning into your side as much as you lean into hers.

 

“I just don’t understand how someone could knowingly do this to you, Emma. You are more incredible than I think you even realise. You are so strong and caring, and funny and loving. Even if you eat like a child and act more like one than our son does half the time.” You poke her in the side for that, and she swats your hand away with a watery laugh. “It just doesn’t make sense, and it’s not very often that something doesn’t make sense to me.”

 

You snort before growing serious again. “They didn’t know it was me.” Her arms pull you tighter into her side, and you go willingly. Anyone else you would push away, you don’t want or need their pity. But Regina’s not just anyone, and she feels your heartbreak just as acutely as you do.

 

“How long ago did it happen?” she whispers into your hair. You don’t answer. “Emma?” Her voice is shaky as she pulls back to look at you. “When did it happen?”

 

You shake your head because it doesn’t matter, she already knows the answer; you can see her eyes widening in realization, tears falling fast and she pulls out of your arms and slides back to the end of the couch. You shiver at the lack of warmth.

 

“I did this?” Her words are filled with so much self hatred that you truly don’t understand how either of your hearts can survive this much heartbreak.

 

You shake your head. “You asked. I didn’t have to do it.”

 

“But I pushed, and you wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t push.” She wraps her arms around herself. You scoot forward and take her right hand in your left, your blackened marks aligning, and even broken, with no thread tying you together as it once did, the warm tingling that runs up your arm when your marks touch is undeniable.

 

Regina sucks in a breath. “I can feel that,” she says in awe, and you give her a watery smile in return.

 

“Me too,” you whisper. You never thought you would have this again; the moment you cut your thread you thought you would never again feel something so right.

 

You pull your marked finger away from hers to see if the feeling would stay, but the second your fingers lose contact, the warmth disappears and the pleasant thrumming under your skin is gone.

 

“No,” Regina mutters and threads your fingers back together, and you can’t help but laugh. She looks up at you curiously. “What?”

 

You shake your head. “It’s different,” you tell her instead, “I used to be able to feel this when we were close to each other, whether we were touching or not. But now-”

 

“Now it’s our choice. We don’t feel it unless we choose to,” Regina finishes.

 

“Exactly,” you agree. You both fall silent, staring down at your entwined hands resting in her lap.

 

“I am sorry though, Emma,” she says, squeezing your hand. You look at Regina, her eyes filled with tears, as she rubs circles onto the back of your hand with her thumb, so careful to keep her little finger pressed to yours.

 

You cup her cheek with the palm of your hand and turn her gaze to yours. “It never mattered,” you say, and press your thumb to her lips when she starts to respond. “It didn’t. I’m not going to lie and tell you that I don’t miss it, that there wasn’t something about it that was so beautiful -- but it didn’t matter.”

 

You pause to make sure she’s listening, and take a deep breath. “Because I loved you when we were soulmates, and I love you still, and that thread,” you shake your clasped hands, careful not to jar her finger from yours, “never had a damn thing to do with it. It was alway going to be you,” you finish, the words no louder than a whisper.

 

Regina’s crying openly now, mascara tears running down her face. You pull her close and she burrows into your neck, shaking as she fights to hold herself together.

 

When her tears subside, she leans back to look at you, a smile stretching across her face. Even with her make up smeared down her cheeks and her eyes stained red, you’re still taken aback by just how beautiful she is.

 

“You’re right,” she says, voice shaking, “it doesn’t matter. I don’t want to be with you because I’m tied to you, I want to be with you because I choose to, because I choose you . And I do, Emma. You have to know that I do.”

 

You know that she does, you can always tell when she’s lying -- and what she’s saying couldn’t possibly be more true.

 

“I love you,” she says. You can read the truth of it in her eyes -- and that right there is more real than any soulmate connection ever could be.