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Memory is the First to Go

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5: Don’t Forget

Emma went home, holding the noted that had appeared in her car while she was on the hill. She could not let it go. She clutched it, like a lifeline, even when she laid down in the bed. She was not sure why, but she could not let it go. It was a simple note, but suddenly, to the hollowed out Emma, it felt like so much more. It felt like everything keeping her tethered to this world. To the point where she read the same seven words at least a thousand times. She had been cold when it appeared, warning her of freezing to death. But, each time she read it, she felt a little warmer.

“Why?” she whispered to the darkness of her room.

She was not sure what the why was directed to. Why did the note make her feel warmer? Why did all of this happen? Why did Selena do this to her? Why was her life like this? Why did she feel like this? Why did she feel like nothing mattered?

No, things mattered. Henry still mattered. And… she still mattered. She mattered enough for Regina to send her a note to get her out of the cold.

Why did Regina care if she froze to death or not? She was not going to go back to Regina, back to torment, back to being a toy. She was not going to go back to those honey brown eyes.

And, why were her eyes honey brown? Selena’s eyes were not that shade of brown. Emma shook her head. No, I’m thinking of Regina, not Selena. They’re not the same person. Yes, they both did horrible things, especially to her, but they were not the same person. They did not even look the same, she realized with a gasp.

“No, no, no. I’m wrong,” Emma said, shaking her head. She was certain they did look alike, but as she thought back to seeing Regina hardly an hour ago, she knew she was wrong. She could picture them both so much clearer now.

Selena had been much taller than Regina, which was not hard, even in Emma’s little eight year old mind. Yes, both women seemed larger than life, but that was Regina’s aura. Regina was small enough for Emma to pick up and carry, at least small distances. Selena had stood shoulder to shoulder next to most adults from what Emma could remember.

And as images of Selena invade her mind, Emma could see the dark blond hair of Selena, not brown like she thought. Selena had been a dirty blonde. She shook her head, not wanting to remember anything about Selena. But, you should.

“Why should I?” Emma asked the darkness.

Because Regina is not Selena. Emma shook that away and ripped herself out of her bed. Moving to the living room, she sat in the dark. She could not turn on the light or she would wake her mother, father, and brother all curled up in one bed because she could not go home. But, I am home. No, it could not be home because Regina took home away from her and left her to the whims of people like Selena. Even if Regina and Selena were two different people, Regina still ruined everything.

Regina had taken away her chance at having a family. Or was it Regina gave you a chance at having a family? Wasn’t that what you were with her and Henry? Isn’t that what you long for? Emma shook her head. She did not long for Regina. Regina was not her family. Regina did not give her anything. All Regina did was take and destroy.

As that thought went through her mind, Emma spied a shape in the corner. It was the box Regina dropped off for her what felt like an eternity ago. She thought of the note. She thought of pastries she could not eat. She thought of texts full of concern and affection that she refused to believe and could not answer. What had Regina brought by for her?

“Destruction,” she muttered in answer to her own question. Still, that did not sate her sudden curiosity, as nothing Regina had done in the past couple of weeks seemed so vicious.

Standing up, she grabbed the box, ripping the top off. Using the light from her phone, she saw on the top were her favorite pair of joggers. She thought Regina threw them out when she went back to the mansion to get her stuff. Little did she know, she already had them. She usually wore them when she was sick or did not feel good in other ways. Under those, her favorite t-shirt and her favorite tank, which were also worn when she was sick or did not feel well. Her favorite books followed. And her favorite mug with packets of her favorite Swiss Miss hot cocoa. Even her favorite bowl made the journey across Storybrooke with a variety of her favorite candies secured in it with plastic wrap as a cover. All things she used when it felt like the world was closing in and helped her work things out.

Emma’s throat burned and put her hand over her mouth as a sob escaped from deep inside her. Underneath it all was her baby blanket and a note. Don’t forget, no matter what, you are loved. She would tell that to Regina whenever she buckled under the weight of everything from the past. Curling into herself, she held the baby blanket to her face and wept into it. She was so wrapped up in what was happening she did not realize Snow was there until Snow was rubbing her back. She threw herself on her mother and bawled her eyes out against her.

“It’s okay,” Snow cooed.

“It’s not. It’s so not,” Emma coughed. It was so much and she felt so overwhelmed now. She went from being hollow to too full too fast. She could not breathe. It felt like she was drowning.

Snow kissed the top of her head. “As long as you’re alive, it’s okay because that means it can get better. Do you want to talk about?”

Emma shook her head. “Not yet.” Probably not ever with her parents, especially her mother.

“Does it have to do with Regina?”

“No.” That was really the thing. It did not have anything to do with Regina. She made it have something to do with Regina because Regina made her bring it up. That was not fair. I’ve been so unfair to her and she still loves me.

“Does it have to do with why you’re here, though?”

“Yeah.” A loud whimper escaped her throat.

Snow tilted her head and gave her puppy eyes. “And you don’t want to talk about it?”

“No.” The sad truth was that she would eventually have to talk about it, though. She would have to speak to Regina and Henry and who knew who else after.

For once, Snow actually let it go. She let Emma cry on her and that was what Emma needed. She was loved. Her mother loved her, regardless of what happened and she knew if she ever got the courage to tell Snow about it, Snow would be outraged for her. David would as well. Yes, she missed out on having them as parents as a child, but she could appreciate them as parents now. They loved her and she loved them.

“I love you, Mom,” Emma said, her cheek resting on Snow’s lap. She needed to tell them that more often. She needed to tell Neal that more often, too.

“I love you, too, Emma.” Snow caressed her shoulder.

“I wish you could’ve been my mom when I was a kid.” Seeing her mother with Neal, it made her imagine. Sometimes, it even made her envious, but she could cope with it. Maybe not. Part of her felt like this breakdown might have more than one cause, which could be why she blamed Regina. She was not sure. She had not taken a lot of time to examine the why of the whole matter.

Snow laughed a bit. “I was your mom when you were a kid.”

Emma managed a light chuckle, actually feeling somewhat better. “I guess you’re right. I like who I am as a whole person, Mom, but I’m seriously messed up.” Messed up and she did not completely understand why, which did not make things better.

Snow took a deep breath. “I know this might hurt to know, Emma, but we all are. I’m not saying this to downplay whatever’s hurting you, but I want you to know that no one gets out of life unscathed. You’re not alone in this. I grew up a princess and life still got me. Hell, Regina was a princess, too.”

“She was, wasn’t she?” She forgot about that with Regina. Regina was a princess who had been abused by her own mother. Regina had been screwed by life and tried to screw it back. No one did get out of life unscathed, but some were more bruised, beat up, and scarred than others. And, sometimes, people with love in their hearts tried to heal those wounds.

“I’m sorry you got hurt, though.”

“Me, too.” Emma sniffled and wiped her face. She was sorry for the whole mess, both past and present. “But, it’ll be okay, right?”

Snow rubbed her back again. “Yes, it will. Yes, it will. We’re here for you, Emma, and we’ll always be here now. All of us.”

Emma did not remember falling asleep, but she woke up to Neal poking her in the shoulder. She was on the couch. She pinched him to get him to back up. He squealed and grinned at her.

“Emma’s up, Mama!” he called to Snow and ran off giggling. Sighing, Emma sat up. Yes, she was up. The world continued on and she had things to do.

Snow made breakfast and for once Emma allowed herself to think about the difference between Snow’s breakfast and the breakfast she had gotten used to. Regina made food Emma and Henry liked, usually things to make them happy in the morning as well as carry them through the day. Regina liked to say she fed them physically and emotionally.

Snow put oatmeal in front of Emma as she sat down at the counter. Emma was not a fan of oatmeal. She would eat it, but only because that was all there was. She could not help thinking that if she spent the night crying on Regina, Regina would have made french toast in the shape of hearts. There would have been powdered sugar with bananas and strawberries and mixed nuts with warm syrup. Don’t forget, no matter what, you’re loved.

“How do you feel this morning, honey?” Snow asked, grabbing Emma around the shoulders in a one-armed hug.

“Better than I have in…” Emma was not sure how long she had been at the loft. “Almost two weeks?” Her brow wrinkled. Have I really been here for two weeks? Avoiding Regina for two weeks? Not seeing her son for two weeks.

Snow smiled. “I’m glad.”

Emma nodded. “Me, too.” It felt like a weight had been lifted off of her. She still felt like she was being dragged down, but it was not as heavy as it was like last night. She was not drowning anymore. She had some swimming to do, but not like the struggle to stay above water.

She ate her breakfast and kissed her mother’s cheek. She had to get things done today. Regina was not Selena and before anything else, she needed to say that to Regina. Hell, she needed to say it to herself a bunch of times. Selena had hurt her and had not cared. Selena did nice things for her to make sure she did not say anything and to groom her into a toy. Selena would never, had never given her a note to remind her she was loved. Selena did not love her.

“Why did I do this?” Emma asked the cold morning air as she made her way to her car. If she drove fast enough, she might be able to catch Regina at home. She was ready to talk about this, talk about what happened, and figure out how to move forward. Don’t forget, no matter what, you’re loved.

Since she was loved, that meant there was a way to fix this, right? They had gone through so many other things together. There was still something left of them… or so Emma hoped.

She parked at the mansion after seeing Regina’s car still in the driveway. She noticed the dent in the fender and felt a sheepish blush burn her face. She would have to get that fixed, just like everything else. Just as she got to the door, it opened and Henry was coming out, ready for school with his messenger bag and all.

“Ma,” his voice was curt and his eyes hard.

Everything about Henry cut into Emma. She could feel his fury thumping through her, threatening to turn her bones to dust. She had allowed this thing inside of her to fester into her son, hurt him in ways she never wanted to. All she ever wanted to do was help make sure Henry had a stress free adolescence. 

“Uh… Hi…” Emma gave an awkward wave. Was there a way to patch things up with her son? Please.

He frowned at her. “Not here to kidnap me again, are you?”

Emma shook her head and glanced at her feet for a moment. “No, sorry about that. Gonna talk to your mom.”

Henry nodded and his face shifted into a gentler expression. His eyes were warm and a small smile twitched onto his lips before he held up a stern finger. “Be nice.”

“I’m gonna try.” Don’t forget, no matter what, you’re loved.

“Good. She needs care just like you do.”

“I know.” I’m the one who told her don’t forget, no matter what, you’re loved because she is.

“You gonna be okay?” he asked. 

Emma took a deep breath and her bottom lip wobbled. “I want to try. I need to try. I love you guys so much. I can’t lose you.”

“We love you, too, Ma. I’m sorry you’re so hurt.”

Emma put her hand over her mouth, keeping in a sob. He loved her. Despite what she had done, he loved her and wanted her to get better. She had to take another deep breath to keep herself together. 

“Thank you,” she managed, even though her throat felt like it was seared shut.

He gave her another nod, the powerful one-armed hug of a teenage boy who still loved his mother, but wanted to be kind of cool about it, and then rushed off for school. She went inside to find Regina slipping on her shoes. Regina was not looking at her, probably did not hear her conversation with Henry. Emma took a moment to take her in.

Yes, Regina was a professional just like Selena, but even their styles were different. Regina had a style all her own, especially with all of the suit vests. Selena never wore a suit vest as far as Emma could remember. Selena did not wear heels either. There were a lot of boots if she could remember correctly. Selena also wore men’s cologne, but Emma never realized that until she was older and placed the scent once as a teenager. It made her want to throw up, but she chalked it up to the fact that it was on a guy picking up one of the working girls she hung around. Regina wore a light, flowery perfume and it never failed to settle Emma’s soul when she inhaled it. No, Regina and Selena were not the same. And, then, Regina glanced up and Emma’s heart skipped a beat.

“Emma,” Regina said through gritted teeth.

“I forgot,” Emma’s voice cracked, tears already burning her eyes.

Regina stood, arms folded across her chest like a shield. Her glare was her weapon. “You forgot?”

Emma went into her pocket and pulled out the wrinkled note. “I forgot.” She held up the note, hand trembling. She sniffled, trying to keep her nose from running. She did not have a right to look pathetic here.

Regina shook her head and her eyes remained hard as diamonds. “You didn’t forget. You thought I touched Henry based on my past history. I thought you were upset with me because I brought up those memories. I thought you were upset with me because I cast the Curse. I even though you were upset with me because I couldn’t help you. But, to find out you avoided me like this because you thought I was capable of touching children, our child…” She shook her head again, a sharp scowl on her face. “I don’t even know what to do about that.”

Her eyes, those beautiful, honey brown eyes, looked shattered and Emma felt her stomach turn. I put that that pain there. I was supposed to protect her and I destroyed her because I forgot. “I know! I know. Well, I don’t know, actually. I don’t know why I did that.” Emma’s eyes dropped to the floor. Why did I do that? Why did I think that?

Regina frowned. “Yes, that’s just what I want to hear. You have no idea why you lumped me in with a child molester, even though you know all my crimes and know I never did anything like that. I’ve admitted to mass murder and raping several adults. You want me to have child molestation on my soul as well?”

“I just… I just…” Emma had no words. She had no idea what happened, except she forgot. “I just forgot…” Her voice cracked as she felt her heart break.

“I’ve got work.” Regina slipped by her, making sure they did not touch, and left the house. Emma stood there for a long while, not sure what to do next.

-8-8-8-8-

Regina hopped in her car, making sure to ignore the dent on the rear fender. She went to work and tried to get something done, but it was impossible. I forgot echoed through her mind. How many times did she forget? How many times had she expected to come home and find Henry and Emma gone? How many times had she expected Emma to call her a monster and condemn her for the Curse and so much more? How many times had she thought she burned everything she held dear to the ground only to find Emma waiting for her with a hug, a kiss, and the love and compassion that helped keep her alive?

Sighing, Regina grabbed her phone and sent Emma a text. “Whenever you forget, I’m here to remind you.”

Yes, she was crushed by Emma’s thoughts, but she would be a liar and a hypocrite if she abandoned Emma now. She would not be able to live with herself if she abandoned Emma now. Emma needed her, needed everyone in her life. Regina loved her too much to leave her now.

For the first time in two weeks, Emma replied to her text. “Thank you.”

It would not be fair to suddenly up and leave after Emma had her doubt, even if it was compounded with a bout of madness. She knew how it could be when confronting demons. There were days when she wanted to tear herself apart. There were days where she did tear Emma apart. But, how could she look at Emma, knowing Emma thought she had touched Henry?

How could Emma look at you knowing you left children to be eaten by the Blind Witch? How could Emma look at you knowing you slaughtered villages of people on the hunt for her mother? How could Emma look at you knowing you personally flayed more people in your dungeon than she has ever met in her life? How could Emma look at you knowing you forced people into your bed to let them know you were in charge? How could Emma look at you after you cast a Curse that led to her separation from her parents and her extremely hard life?

Regina sighed yet again and rubbed her face. Emma stood with her. Sometimes, she needed a moment to get herself together, but she came back, very encouraging and loving, even when Regina forgot. It was Regina’s turn.

“Lunch?” Regina texted it, as she did not trust her voice for the moment.

“Yes, please,” was the reply.

Regina sighed again, but more because she could hear how young Emma sounded, even in the text. “My office.”

“Okay.”

Regina looked at the time. Somehow, two hours had passed, so now she had an hour to do something about lunch. She wanted to do something special, but she did not have time, really. She ordered pizza for Emma. Two slices, one with extra cheese and hamburger, and the other with peppers and olives. Emma had only learned she liked peppers and olives trying a slice of pizza Regina made. She kept root beer in her office refrigerator, so she was prepared when Emma came through her door right on time.

“You know, I haven’t had pizza for a while,” Emma said as she sat down across from Regina at her desk.

Despite Emma looking a little frayed, her hair frizzy and her clothes wrinkled, she did not seem as frenzied as she had been the other night. She somewhat curled into herself as she settled into her chair, but she did not look like she might break. Her eyes, downcast, were wet, as if tears could fall at any moment.

Regina chewed her words for a moment. “I made it the night you left. I thought you might come back.” She did not want it to sound like she was accusing Emma of anything.

Emma sniffled. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. It was for your mental health.” Regina understood that, even if it hurt. Right now, Emma’s agony was more important than her own, though.

Emma shook her head. “More like my mental breakdown. I’m sorry for comparing you to Selena. You’re not her.”

Regina’s ground her teeth together to hide how her jaw trembled at the thought of Emma comparing her to Selena. “No, I’m not, but I’m no saint either. I will admit it hurt to know that’s what you thought of me. I was ready to be blamed for the memories coming back to you. I was ready to be blamed for it happening to you because of the Curse. I was ready so much, but I wasn’t ready for you to think I would do something like that.”

Emma gnawed on her bottom lip for a moment. “I didn’t mean to. My thoughts…” She shook her head and searched the floor for a long moment.

“Take your time,” Regina said. Rushing Emma through anything would only make matters worse.

Emma took a deep breath. “I’m not sure what happened exactly. I just started freaking out over Selena and then I was pissed you brought her up and then I guess I just started associating you both in my head together. It didn’t help that the memories came back while we were… well, trying to be intimate. We didn’t really make it. But, the sounds and the act, it just… it was too much for me. I was flooded with everything and I couldn’t deal with it, can’t deal with it. Last night… last night I finally got to see that was bullshit.”

Regina arched an eyebrow. “Last night? Last night when you came to take our son away.”

Emma shook her head and rubbed her forehead. “No, last night in the car when you told me to go home so I don’t freeze to death. It reminded me that you care. Selena didn’t care. I knew that, even back then. When she had to leave, she wasn’t heartbroken I was going back to a group home. She didn’t care what happened to me. She probably just trained some other poor foster kid to take my place.”

Regina rubbed her palms together to keep her from reaching out for Emma. She was not sure if Emma would be comfortable with her touching her and she wanted to respect Emma’s boundaries, respect her healing, even if it hurt. “You’re not replaceable to me.”

“I know. I just…” Emma sighed and rubbed her forehead as if she was trying to erase it.

“You forgot.”

Emma rubbed her eye with the heel of her hand. “And then I finally opened up the box you left. I went home before and grabbed my stuff and I wondered why all my favorite stuff wasn’t there and I thought you threw it out because I was so pissed at you. And, I opened the box and there everything was. You know all my favorite stuff and you wanted me to have it to help me feel better. No one knows all my favorite stuff. No one.” A dry sob escaped her throat and she bent over, putting her hand to her stomach.

“And you found the note at the bottom of the box,” Regina said as Emma sat back up.

Emma’s mouth trembled and her voice cracked. “It made me remember.”

“That was its purpose.”

Tears slid down Emma’s face. “I don’t know how to deal with this, Regina. I don’t. I don’t.” Ducking her head, she palmed her face, as if trying to hide.

Regina wanted to reach across the table and grab Emma’s hand again. She wanted to rush over to the other side of the desk and hug Emma to her. She held off, though. She would not touch Emma until she had some sign it would not make things worse. She rubbed her fingertips together, itching to cuddle her distraught lover, but holding off.

“Can I touch you, Emma?” Regina asked.

“Please!” Emma curled over in her chair, bawling.

Regina rushed up and wrapped her arms around Emma. She held Emma tight and listened as Emma sobbed. Each sound tore threw her.

“I’m so sorry, Emma. I’m so sorry,” Regina whispered.

“I don’t want to blame you, but I don’t know how to stop!” Emma wailed.

“It’s okay.” Regina would take all of the blame if it meant Emma could feel better. She would take all of this on herself if she could.

“I don’t know how to deal with this,” Emma said again.

Regina leaned down and kissed the top of Emma’s head. Her heart softened because Emma allowed it, Emma did not flinch, Emma did not pull away. They still had a chance. 

“You will, dear heart. You’re already dealing with it. You’re stronger than you think. Isn’t that what you always tell me? I’m stronger than I think and I can’t let the past crush me. You can’t let the past crush you, especially when you didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t do anything,” Regina said.

Emma cried for a while. They ended up on the floor, leaning against the desk. Emma laid in her lap. Regina caressed her shoulder. Emma flinched when she went to stroke Emma’s hair, so she stayed away from that area.

“I gotta go back to Archie, don’t I?” Emma said, her voice still so small.

“We both know it’ll help.” Regina saw Archie twice a week and probably would for the rest of her life. It was just so much to deal with in life and so many reasons to not fall into old habits. Archie helped her cope.

Emma sniffled and wiped her runny nose. “I don’t understand why this is such a pain. I mean, it happened when I was eight and she didn’t even touch me. I was fine for such a long time. Now, I’m a mess. I’m so messed up.” She rubbed her forehead, as if trying to shift the mess.

Regina gave her shoulder a little squeeze. “You know that’s not how it works. Trauma can sneak up on us and we can react in different ways, no matter how many years or what happened. You’re not wrong or weak for reacting this way.”

“I hurt you and I messed up with Henry.”

Regina managed a small smile. “I’m fine now.” Well, she would work on being fine. “I’m more worried about you than anything else. Henry will understand.” Henry was very aware both of his mothers had a laundry list of issues.

“Can you… can you make me an appointment?”

“I will. Do you want to get up?”

“No. Not yet.” They stayed on the floor for over an hour with Emma cuddled into her.

-8-8-8-8-

It felt strange to be home again, but Emma was glad she could think of it as home again. She sat at the dinner table as Regina served and found it hard to look up. Henry watched her. She hunched over a bit, trying to hide from him.

“You gonna be okay?” Henry eventually asked. He did not sound angry or even upset. In fact, he sounded concerned, like she had not messed up with him.

“I’m gonna try,” she answered honestly. She glanced at him and discovered his eyes as concerned as his tone. Still, it was hard to meet anyone’s eyes. She still could not make sense of her pain, but she understood the pain she caused all too well.

“Well, me and Mom made your favorite to help.” Henry had learned to cook quite a bit over the past year after Emma convinced him it would help him get girls. He was not bad, but he usually only cooked to impress Violet.

“Thank you.”

“Hey, Ma.”

“Huh?” She had to look up because of his tone. “Yeah?”

He grinned at her, looking so much like her it hurt her chest. “Don’t forget, no matter what, you are loved.”

Emma did not want to cry in front of him, but her chin trembled and tears came anyway. He got up and hugged her. Regina came in and join in. She felt like they kept her together, even after she almost tore them apart. She would not let this thing break her.

She felt like she held it together well until it was time for bed. She stood in the doorway of the bedroom. Regina stood inside, turning down the bed, and making it a point to not look at Emma. Emma could not move.

“It’s all right if you want to stay in the guest bedroom. I’ll fix it up for you,” Regina said.

Emma shook her head. “No. I want to… I want you to hold me, but I feel like an ass for wanting that after all this shit. I mean, I’ve been running from you for two weeks and now I wanna be coddled by you? That’s bullshit.”

Regina shook her head. “It’s not bullshit, Emma. When I finally realized what colored my entire sexual history, what did I do?”

Emma rubbed her arm and glanced away. “Cried for three days.”

“Cried for three days on you. I cried on you while also beating you up because it was your grandfather. You didn’t even know the man. But, you let me cry and you let me blame everyone for what happened, even you.”

Emma shrugged. “I am the Savior.” That had been the problem when Regina had figured out not only was she a rape victim, but a rapist. Regina bawled and raged over the fact that no one had saved her. In a world of fairies, heroes, and magic, no one had saved her, but eventually conceded that Emma had saved her. Emma never gave up on her.

“Emma, I will do whatever you need me to do. If you need to sleep in the guest room, I will prepare it. If you need to cry for three days, I’ll stock up on water right now. Whatever you need to help you overcome this.” 

Emma could not help it, she started crying again. Regina did not move and it took Emma a moment to realize why. Regina was giving her space, letting her make the moves, so nothing made her uncomfortable. She went and fell into Regina’s arms, mumbling apologizes into her shoulder.

“It’s all right, darling. It’s all right,” Regina said, her voice a whisper. 

“Why does this hurt so much?” Emma did not understand. Now, having thought about it, she could not comprehend why it felt like she was falling part. It happened when she was eight for crying out loud.

“Because it’s about more than just that. You know that.”

Emma knew it was so much more, but she thought she dealt with those issues. How long would her fear of abandonment and lack of worth haunt her? How long would her subconscious feel like the world screwed her over and she got the short end of the stick? Her life was so good now. She just wanted to bask in that.

“Archie agreed to take you in tomorrow,” Regina said. 

“Will you come with me?”

“Of course.” 

Emma was not sure what she had done to deserve Regina in her life, but she was beyond grateful at the moment. Regina understood her in ways no other person ever did. Regina could forgive her in ways no person ever had. She could count on Regina to always love her unconditionally. She would have to do her best to never forget again.

-8-8-8-8-

Emma was drained after her first session with Archie. Regina sat quietly and literally held her hand the whole time. She thought that would be the worst of it, but Archie suggested they do couple’s counseling as well. There, Emma saw the worst as Regina broke down, sobbing when asked how she felt about Emma equating her with Selena during her breakdown. Not that Archie referred to it as a breakdown. 

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Emma said, dying to reach out for Regina, but she could not bring herself to do so. She did not feel worthy of touching Regina. Each noise cut through Emma like a chainsaw. She put that pain there. You’re a worthless human being.

“Emma,” Archie said. He was mostly a prompt at this point. They had gone through this so much, he was only there to make sure they said something. 

Emma had been through this enough to know what he wanted from her. “This makes me feel useless. Worthless.” Those were always her problems. Hell, it was cause behind the cause of her breakdown and they all knew it. Selena had given her a use and worth, but it had been meaningless, as Selena sent her away like everyone else, not that she wanted to stay with Selena. Selena had taken her sense of worth and self and perverted it. She had to deal with that.

“You’re not,” Regina insisted, but it was hard to believe through her tears. It was a good thing Regina had dealt with her sense of self-worth a while ago or they would not have survived this. Regina was so much stronger than she was, which only made Emma feel even more worthless, if that was a thing. 

“Emma, why do you feel that way?” Archie asked.

“I’m useless because I can’t help her and I’m worthless because I made her feel this way,” Emma replied. 

“Regina,” Archie said.

Regina sniffled. “It just hurts to know I remind you of her.” 

“It’s not so much that you remind me of her now. It was just I got triggered while we were being intimate. When you ran your fingers through my hair, it reminded me of her because she used to pet me and I think my brain just started making connects for everything. For a little while I thought you looked like her, but I was dead wrong and that’s helped me in keeping you separate.” Not to the point where they could be intimate, but she was still better than she was a couple of months ago.

“What does she look like?” Regina asked.

“Hold on.” Emma dug in her pocket for her phone. “I googled her not too long ago, to keep reminding myself she’s not you.” She brought up a picture. 

Regina scowled as she focused on Selena, who did not look bad for a woman almost fifty and pure evil. The internet photo was connected to her job. Her hair was blond now and cut very short, shorter than Emma would have ever thought. Her smile seemed painted on, like the skirt suit she wore.

“I see she’s not a registered sex offender,” Regina said in a mumble.

“Unfortunately, no. Unfortunately, still alive, too. But, she’s not you. And, looking at her picture helps me realize she’s not some big bad monster, too. I mean, she is a monster because she’s probably still hurting kids, but I get to see that if I ever meet her face to face, I could totally take her in a fight. It helps.” 

Regina nodded. “I never touched a child like that.”

“I know.”

“But, I’ve…” Regina could not even bring herself to say it.

“I know.” Emma knew the horrible things Regina had done, the children she had slaughtered with their parents in her quest to destroy Snow White. “But, you were lost and you’re finding yourself again. I know how that is.”

Regina offered her a watery smile. Their sessions together got better from there. The sessions on her own were a little tougher because she could only focus on herself and dig into those problems alone. But, little by little, she learned to move forward.

-8-8-8-8-

Epilogue:

By the time Henry was going to graduate, Emma was able to be herself around her family again. It was easier to pretend she was all right outside, but at home it had been little by little. Regina and Henry encouraged her to take her time. They allowed her to heal, never expected her to be the Savior. They never made her feel like she had to go at a certain pace. They supported her, even when she fell into bad habits and tried to push them away during particularly rough days. But, those were less and less thanks to their love and support. So, now, it was her turn to support their baby boy as he walked across the stage.

“Go, Henry!” Emma clapped while Regina whistled loudly as Henry accepted his diploma. They took several pictures until Henry was off of the stage. “Our kid is a high graduate! He’s got us both beat!” She grabbed Regina up in a tight hug.

Regina laughed. “Need I remind you, I have several college degrees.”

“From the Curse! Just like everyone else until our first set of college grads return in two years,” Emma pointed out.

Regina opened her mouth to say something, but stopped and looked down. This made Emma do the same and she realized what gave Regina pause. This was the first time she had initiated any type of contact between them since the memories of Selena were dredged up. She looked in Regina’s eyes and smiled.

“You are loved,” Regina whispered.

“I know. And if I forget, you’re here to remind me,” Emma replied. “Now, let’s go embarrass Henry some more.”

Regina smiled more and they went to take more pictures of Henry, even though the graduation was still going on. It was not like anyone would stop them. Besides, they did this out of love.

-8-8-8-8-

The End.

Well, that’s that. I’m sorry if the journey was painful and the ending not enough. I still wanted to explore this idea, though. Thanks for tagging along. Back to my padded cell with me.