It was like nothing had changed when clearly everything had. But it seemed so easy to forget that right now.
They were all seated in Granny's, just like every time there was something to celebrate. Or plan or mourn or someone was hungry. That was their place.
Granny had made a cake just like she always did and somehow it seemed to be getting better and better as time went by and Regina hated to admit that.
They had made it back. Gone were Hyperion Heights and Wish Realm, well every realm really as they were all brought to Storybrooke to ensure that people wouldn't be separated ever again. This was a new home for all of them.
It had been a slight chaos after they had returned. People have been running around, trying to find their loved ones. Regina had been one of them, trying to find her family. She had found both of her sons and her other son's family at the mansion because of course; the mansion had been Henry's home ever since he was a baby so it was natural that they landed there.
She had eventually found her sister who had been none of the wiser about things changing and everyone returning. It was due to the fact that she still lived at the farm house, rather liking her privacy even when she came to town every single day. The Hyperion Heights version of Zelena had not made the trip as she was living in San Francisco with Chad. Regina had managed to send a message out to her however, informing her that they had made it back to Storybrooke, if she ever wished to return.
Even when Zelena had already briefly met her grown up daughter, the shock hadn't really worn off in time for the second meeting those two had. Zelena had arrived at the diner with her young daughter in tow, speechless probably for the first time ever. But just as Regina had known, the peculiar situation did not limit the love Zelena had to offer as she wrapped her arms around Robin, telling her just how much she loved this version of her as well.
Looking around the diner, Regina noticed all these familiar faces, feeling a connection with everyone. She was a part of their story in some way, but with most the way had often been most unpleasant. She really had done some terrible things, ruined so many lives but now she felt like things had shifted, like they were all breathing in new air.
Snow waved at her from the other side of the room. Somehow the woman she had sworn to kill with her bare hands had turned into someone she knew she could count on with her life. They had become friends and through one of the most complicated family trees, they had even become part of a same family. Sure, they had lived in a same place before, but when she had been the king's wife they had not been a family. It had quite literally been the furthest thing from it.
There was a piece of that delicious cake being placed in front of her as Zelena sat down across from her with her own plate. She was looking at her two daughters, who were chatting loudly. Next to them, holding older Robin's hand was Alice, who looked at her Robin like she had put all the stars in the sky.
"They look so happy." Zelena whispered.
"They are." Regina promised, looking at the two girls so innocently expressing their affection and love for each other. It was quite refreshing how the world had changed and people were more accepting of other people. Love was love, no matter who you felt that towards.
Two sisters fell silent again, enjoying their cake. Regina felt happiness and she couldn't quite believe it. She was surrounded by people who she could call her family, her friends. She felt love for several of them and that was so much more than she ever thought she could have. A weird thing she was experiencing though was like she was partly blinded by a veil.
She could feel how the exhaustion set in, how she just wanted to sleep and gather her strength. Regina couldn't remember the last time she had full night's sleep since it seemed that ever since Henry had gotten that storybook there had always been something. A curse, a villain, just a plain old nightmare, feelings, often even pain... just something.
"Have you seen her yet?" Zelena asked with her voice just as quiet as before.
Regina knew exactly who Zelena was talking about and that made her close her eyes. She had tried her hardest not to think about her after she had been woken from the curse by Ivy in Hyperion Heights. She had tried not to think about her well before that as well, but in the Enchanted Forest it had been easier to push it all aside. As long as she had something to do, she was fine but the nights when she was alone... Well, as said, there was always something.
"No." Regina said, barely audible over the music and talking but Zelena heard her.
"You know you have to face her eventually, right?" Zelena asked.
"I know. But not today." Regina looked at her sister sharply, hoping she would just drop it. Zelena was someone who knew her feelings well, because one night she had been so upset, so drunk and had called her sister to come over. And she had told her everything. That had only been few weeks before she had left to help Henry, and the talk she had had with her sister had helped her seal the deal when Henry asked her to stay.
Zelena gave a slight nod, before focusing back on her cake and watching over her daughters. Before long, her smaller daughter ran up to them, asking was she allowed to have cake with her 'big sister'. Zelena got up with a beaming smile and made her way to the counter to help her daughter.
Regina was left alone and for now it was how she preferred it. Zelena leaving gave a good opportunity for someone else to step closer to her and sit down on the spot her sister had just vacated. "Hello Your Majesty."
"Hello, Mulan." Regina said kindly, having the utmost respect for the warrior sitting across from her. A lot of the people had quickly changed out of their fairytale clothes to feel more comfortable and relaxed, but Mulan was one of the few who still wore their clothes from their homeland. For Mulan it was more of an honor than anything else, although it helped her feel bit more comfortable in this strange new land. "How can I help you?"
"I was thinking... Would you be able to get something for me?" Mulan asked quietly.
That made Regina very curious since it seemed so unlike Mulan to ask something from anyone, especially from her. Regina had heard about the lack of trust in her and she couldn't really blame the young warrior. At the time it had been very true and very real to be untrusting towards her.
"What do you need?
"A forgetting potion."
That made Regina physically rear her head back in surprise. It was odd that anyone would be asking for such a potion, because it really meant forgetting. There was no restoring what the person wanted to forget. Regina tried to think what could possibly be hurting Mulan so much, but she herself wasn't a stranger to hiding heartbreak. There were things she too wished to forget, but over the years she had learned to live with that. Now as she was looking at the hunched over woman in front of her, she felt concern over Mulan as it seemed that the longer she kept her waiting the more she was crumbling before her very eyes.
"I know it's none of my business, but what do you need a forgetting potion for?" Regina asked kindly, keeping her voice down as there were people passing by their table.
"This is a new beginning for me, but there is still this... heartbreak that I cannot stop feeling. I want to enjoy this new land, I want to move past my pain, but it..." Mulan swallowed and looked around to make sure there was no one listening in on them. "It burns me, it's eating me alive. I can't enjoy the simplest of thing without wishing she was there and I-" the young woman realized how much she had spoken and how much she had revealed, and she placed a hand in front of her lips.
Regina was looking at Mulan with her mouth hanging open. It was like the other woman had said out loud every single feeling she was feeling, and she would have never guessed that the woman sitting across from her was feeling even a fraction of the same things she was. Apparently, the world was even more of a bitch than she ever realized.
"Who..." Regina started but suddenly there was a shadow glooming over them and Mulan was pulled up and into a tight hug. Regina looked up to recognize a familiar princess she had once shaded over her pregnancy when they had returned into Enchanted Forest.
"Aurora." she greeted curtly, but what really left her floored was the pain she saw nearly breaking out from behind Mulan's eyes as she was released from the hug. There truly was always 'more to the story than meets the eye' and Regina was wondering how many other stories in Henry's book were so terribly wrong written.
"Regina! I cannot thank you enough for bringing us all here!" Aurora said happily. "We were just walking around town when we heard the music and came to see what this was all about! This will be a perfect place for us to raise our family and now I'm finally reunited with my Mulan!" she pulled the other woman into another hug, completely oblivious of the pain she was causing her friend.
A man appeared behind them, holding a baby in his arms and beaming a smile towards the broken warrior. "Mulan! How happy we are to see you again!" and he reached for her arm to give it a squeeze. That was when the baby in his arms informed everyone that it needed attention and the young couple bid their farewells with a promise of getting together soon for a proper meal and a catch up.
Mulan nearly fell back down on her seat and buried her face into her hands. Regina wanted to reach out to comfort her, but she knew better. There was nothing she could do to make Mulan feel better. Maybe except one thing.
"I will help you." she simply said and the look of utter gratefulness that was sent her way was enough of a thank you. "But it will take me some time since there are ingredients I have to gather and since I brought everyone here it's also my responsibility to make sure everyone is alright and that things are handled accordingly." she sounded apologetic, knowing how much it hurt.
"That's alright. I have battled with this for so many years that waiting a little bit longer won't mean a thing." Mulan said with a smile and it really took a skilled burier of feelings to realize how false that smile was. She got up to leave just when the bell above the door dinged.
There was a roar of welcomes being hurled at the people who had entered and since Mulan was blocking her view of the door, Regina couldn't see who they were. Suddenly she could feel the nagging feeling one got when they were being watched. Looking around she met the intense gaze of her sister. Zelena was looking alarmed and she kept glancing towards the door and then back at her sister.
Regina knew before she even looked. Zelena's hint had been obvious. Closing her eyes for a second, Regina braced herself. She had wished this meeting would not happen today but there was no stopping it now.
Opening her eyes, she straightened her back and drew in a breath. There was a slight crack on her neck as she gave it a stretch like she was getting ready for a fight and in a way, she was. She was getting ready to keep her heart together as it would be ready to crumble to the floor any second now. There had been many a battle, but this was so far the toughest one she had ever faced.
She peeked behind Mulan to see the door and there she was.
The young blonde looked just as beautiful as she had since that fateful night Regina had found her standing on her pathway all those years ago. There had been a time when she had stopped curling her hair due to constant duty of the Savior, but Regina noted happily that she had started doing it again. She really liked Emma's hair on those bouncy curls. It made all of this feel familiar, it made it possible for her to imagine things were different for them.
Emma was wearing a white dress and it actually looked like the one they had ordered together before she had left to save Henry. White was her favorite color on Emma because it truly highlighted her natural beauty in every single way. She looked almost angelic which was the perfect combination considering she was also a total badass with a heart of gold.
Mulan noticed the look on Regina's face and then looked behind her to see what the formed queen was staring at. An understanding crossed over her face and she let out a soft. "Oh..."
She couldn't be more right as 'oh' was indeed very correct. Emma Swan was Regina's 'oh'. Oh, she is not trying to take my son away from me. Oh, she saved me. Oh, she did it again. Oh, her hands are actually really soft. Oh, she gives the best hugs.
Oh, I'm in love with her.
Regina had known it for such a long time, but it had taken her ages to come to terms with it and while she dealt with that, life went on, things changed and suddenly she had lost her opportunity. Because suddenly there was a wedding ring on one of Emma's fingers and people kept speaking of true love.
And then things had happened, and everything was ruined.
That was when their eyes met across the diner. The green orbs got slightly larger as she realized who the chocolate eyes belonged to. Regina couldn't hear it, but she saw how Emma's lips moved, clearly pronouncing her name. It was like the people around them disappeared, there were no voices, no music. Just them. It was the most used cliché from a movie or a book, but that was really how it felt like to Regina.
Emma started to make her way forward, ignoring the people around her in order to get to Regina faster. Regina on the other hand had the sudden urge to run. To get up and run out the back just to avoid this meeting, because she didn't know what was going to happen. And that thought was terrifying to her. Could she really hold it together or not?
Emma was nearly in front of her when a high-pitched scream pierced the air and effectively broke the magic around them. Suddenly there were too many voices and music, but the time stood still for several long seconds. It must have been an important scream as it made Emma turn to look behind her which in turn gave Regina a clear view of the door once again.
In the arms of the filthy pirate laid a baby. Regina knew this was to be expected as she had known of Emma's pregnancy since the beginning, but it still hurt. But when she really looked the baby over, her brows furrowed. The baby had a dark shiny hair and deep chocolate colored eyes. There was a white blanked around the baby, a very similar to the one Regina had once carried in her bag when they had needed it to find Emma through magic.
A word 'Hope' was knitted into it.
Regina felt like throwing up. It just couldn't be.
But it was Emma's eyes that met hers only a moment later that made her entire world crash down around her. Getting up from a booth at Granny's had never been so hard before but somehow, she made it. She had only had coffee when they had arrived, so the wobbliness of her legs could not be blamed on the alcohol either. Everything was spinning. And god, did it hurt. It hurt so bad.
Without a second look at the blonde who had been close enough to touch her, she fled the diner, doubting anyone would notice she was gone. She had no idea where she could go to be alone as her usual places were places where her loved ones knew to find her.
Finally, she came up with a place no one would ever think of. It wasn't a place she would ever go for comfort but for solitude? Yes, it would work just fine. When she made it out the back she closed her eyes and purple smoke surrounded her and made her materialize in a familiar bedroom.
It was her old bedroom in the Black Castle. The table they had used for their meeting in the Wish Realm was still there and Regina leaned her palms on it. She let out a pained breath that was soon followed by a piercing scream.
This room was no stranger to screaming. It had mostly been orders, barked at people who served her and screams of agony and frustration. This one was the latter as she was alone in the castle, just like she had always been when she came here.
She knew there would be people around to help her now. There was a sister who she had grown close to over the years and who she considered to be her confident and her support system as their backgrounds were very similar, for obvious reasons. There was the former nemesis who had become one of her best friends. It would only take a call and Snow would be here in a heartbeat. She could really use one of her hope speeches right about now-
She had fought against a sob bubbling in her chest ever since she saw Emma enter the diner but now there was no stopping it. It echoed on the walls of her empty bedroom, surrounding her and fueling the sorrow she felt.
There was no way all the little details about Hope were pure coincidence. The color of her hair, the shade of her eyes, the... name. She wasn't sure about the general age of the little girl mainly because the timelines often got mixed between realms and there had been another curse that also somewhat froze the time. She had no real idea and for all she knew it could actually be Emma's and Hook's child.
But Emma's eyes... They told her something else. And one could almost call it a gut feeling. She could not only think it, she could feel it in her heart. Hope was her child. Their daughter.
There were million questions running through her brain and Regina felt like she needed answers to each of them in order to feel even partly sane. But she couldn't ask, not now, not today. Regina didn't think she could handle it as she would end up snapping in a way she hadn't snapped in years. And she didn't want anyone to be around for that, not even Emma because in the grand scheme of things this wasn't her fault.
She was too tired to support her weight on her hands so instead she hopped to sit on the table. Eventually she even laid down on her back, grateful of the cold surface that cooled her burning skin. God, she was tired. She was finally feeling so happy, she had saved everyone, reunited people and done the right thing. And as the fate would have it she was left feeling like this again. If this didn't give her a chance at happy ending, then what was?