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Emma’s night didn’t go as planned. Of course she got the man she was after, he’s back in jail, awaiting his trial; and Emma sent what cash he had in his wallet to his wife who lives just outside of Boston. But, unfortunately, he ruined her only dress when he flipped that table at the restaurant. 

She stopped by a local sweet shop on her way back to her apartment to pick up a cupcake and a candle. She makes it back to her apartment, immediately kicking off her uncomfortable shoes. Moving into her kitchen, she pulls out her cupcake and places a star candle atop. She leans down, resting her arms on the counter. “Happy birthday,” she mutters to herself. Closing her eyes, she makes a wish; the same wish she always wishes, to not be alone. That wish sometimes changes. Sometimes she wishes for love, the true kind. Sometimes she wishes for family, the kind she never got. And sometimes it’s just a friend, a friend to be able to talk to. About anything and everything.

Blowing out the candle, nothing changes. It never does. 

She sighs, removing the candle and eating the cupcake. Throwing away the garbage she moves into her bedroom for the rest of her tradition. She slips into her comfiest pajamas and pulls out a box of her things, the things she has from her past; from her days in the foster system. 

Plopping onto her bed, she pulls the cardboard box closer to her. On top of the box, she lifts off her baby blanket. The only thing she had when she was found. A baby discovered on the side of the road at the end of October in Maine, wrapped in nothing but a knitted baby blanket with her name embroidered. Someone took great care in making her blanket; she just wished that gave her the same amount of care. Instead of leaving her on the side of the road during a freezing night in the Maine forest. 

Usually she doesn’t let herself feel this kind of way when she thinks about her birth parents. But every year on her birthday, she allows herself to feel all the self-pity she can must. So she wallows in her sadness. She pulls her baby blanket to her chest, burying her face in it and breathing deeply. She’s not sure what it smells like, but to her, it smells like safety; like the only thing she’s ever been able to call her own. 

With a deep sigh, she sets it in her lap and moves on to the other possessions she has hidden away. She pulls out a bundle of old polaroids, wrapped together with a small rubber band. She begins flipping through them. The first picture is of the day she was found, wrapped up in her baby blanket, staring at the camera in confusion. She looks into those eyes and wonder what happened to them. Comparing them to her eyes now, they’re so much brighter. This little baby had so much to live for, now her eyes are dark and weary; she’s been rejected and burned too many times to believe anything anyone ever tells her. She sighs and moves on.

The next picture is of her with a young couple. They look so happy to be holding this cute little baby, with the brightest blue eyes, in their arms. Emma scoffs, nothing that happy can ever last.

And it didn’t. She has a few pictures from her time with the Swan’s. They had been happy. They even had pictures with the puppy that had lived next door to them, Emma & Cookie , as it was written on the back of the photo. The Swan’s had promises little toddler Emma a puppy, but they got pregnant instead. And that’s when they sent Emma back.

Emma scoffed at the weakness of the Swan’s. They thought they couldn’t handle two kids under three? They didn’t deserve to be parents. Hell, most of the people Emma lived with in her childhood should not have been parents. Most were just in it for the money. Taking in a “problem child” like Emma meant extra money and they could send her back, no questions asked. 

She continues flipping through the pictures. There’s one her social worker took the week she started kindergarten. She looked so proud standing in her hand-me-down clothes that didn’t fit quite right. With a backpack that had stains but no holes. Little Emma looks so happy, thrilled to be going to school like a big girl. 

Emma continues flipping through photos, some she has from foster homes, some from schools, but most are from her social workers. Each time she changed states, she got a new one, but luckily they were good ones. They tried. They did what they could. 

She sighs, continuing to flip through the photos; she wishes some of her foster parents could have been more like her social workers as she looks at a photo of herself, maybe eight years old, covered in bruises from a “fall” down the stairs. She rubs at her shoulder, remembering how hard she rolled down those steps, how long she was laid up, how many lies she had to tell.

It took a long time for her to be able to look at these photos. Years and years went by when she couldn’t even look at these photos. And now it’s become her birthday ritual. Looking at everything she’s overcome. Or at least that’s what she tells herself.

She’s spent enough time looking at these photos. She only gets more heartbroken the more photos she sees. She sighs, putting the rubber band around the photos and tosses the pile onto her bed. 

Next, she pulls out a few books she’s kept over the years. Stellaluna, The Rainbow Fish, a few Judy Blume books, and her favorites: Goosebumps . She smiles, thinking of the old librarian who first introduced her to the Goosebumps series. As she picks up the books she finds a package she’s never seen before. It’s a box, that much is obvious. She can hear something...is that something shaking?

It’s wrapped in the softest of mint colored paper, with a white bow holding it all together. She’s never seen this before. How did it get in her box of things? No one knows about her box. It’s a secret she’s never told anyone. And now there’s something she’s never seen before, in the deepest part of her closet, buried beneath a mountain of her clothes-so she never has to see the box and be reminded of her past. Always buried until her birthday. So, how could anything new ever be put in there?

She studies the wrapped box and finds a note

Emma,

We tried to give you your best chance, but it’s time you know the truth.
Save her and in turn save us all.

-S&D-

“What the hell?” Emma asks herself as she looks at the note. “What is this even supposed to mean, my best chance? Best chance at what? And who the hell are S and D? And who am I supposed to save?” She scoffs, “this is dumb.” She tosses the box onto her bed, ignoring the way whatever is inside jumbles around.

She flops onto her bed, away from box and stares at her ceiling.

“Fuck whatever stupid Fate-joke this is. Fate is a bitch and there’s no way I’m playing her game. Nope. Not a chance.” She continues staring at the ceiling, twirling her thumbs around each other, her fingers interlacing over her stomach. “Nope. Not gonna do it.”

She groans, sitting up, she reaches over and picks up the box, opening it. There’s a book and a...snowglobe? 

“What the hell?” she asks herself. She scoffs and looks at the note again, “Tried to give me my best chance? Bullshit. What does that even mean?” She tosses the globe onto the bed, completely ignoring it, and the weird noise that seemed to come from it. Instead, she turns her entire attention to the book that was with the snowglobe. “Is this...is this a storybook ? Of Disney? What is even happening? Where did this come from?” She flips through some of the pages, “Wait. This isn’t a real Disney book,” she flips through more pages. “What kind of book is this?” She leans forward and actually looks at the book. “The Evil Queen is young ? What kind of storybrooke is this?”

She hears it again, almost like a high-pitched whistle. She looks around but can’t see anything, so she turns her attention back to the book. Again.

The first story, speaks of Little Snow White. Mirror, Mirror, blah blah blah. We all know the story. Emma decides the pictures are much more interesting than any words. The first picture is of an adult-looking Snow White and her prince, Prince Charming? “This book has its stories mixed up,” she tells herself as she looks at the frightened couple on what looks to be their wedding day.

This next picture is of the same Snow White, still looking very adult-like, holding an apple and looking oh-so-very-sad. Why? And in that picture is another woman. That must be the Evil Queen in this storybook. 

The next one is Snow White in her coffin, then Snow White and her prince kissing. “This picture is wayyyy to sappy,” she curls her lip as she flips the page. It’s Snow White and her prince’s wedding. “Thrilling,” she deadpanned. “Of course the princess gets her happy ending, even if it is with the wrong prince,” she grumbles, rolling her eyes at the “happy” picture.

Flipping the page, she sees Snow White and the prince in what looks to be a nursery. “Whoa, Snow White had a baby? You don’t hear about that in happily ever after,” she snarks. She continues flipping through pictures and lands on an up-close picture of Prince Charming’s face. “I mean, I guess he’s not terrible to look at,” she thinks aloud. “Looks kinda dumb though,” she adds.

Then, there’s the story about the Wizard of Oz with a creepy picture of flying monkeys carrying the Tin Man and some lady in white. It’s super weird so Emma quickly flips to the next picture. A brunette with a lantern in the dark.

“Ooh, foreboding,” Emma says with an eye roll. A deer in the darkness, “Weirdddd.”

She continues flipping through pictures, wondering how they’re all supposed to tie together. Peter Pan, Maid Maleen, a gnome? More pictures are passed until she finds another picture of the Evil Queen in front of what looks like a vault. She’s smirking.

“Why is she so happy?” She moves on, looking at pictures of Hansel and Gretel in front of the witch’s house of candy. “Oh I know this one!” She points to the witch’s house and recites the story. “I can’t believe they actually went back to an abusive father,” she scoffs. “Happily ever after my ass,” she adds with an eye roll. 

More photos. A knight in golden armor in the forest looking almost...frozen? Prince Charming on horseback riding through the forest and then another picture in his armor.

“Wow, this guy is obviously a lot more important in this storybook than in the real story,” she mutters to herself as she flips through pictures of Alice in Wonderland, “Whoa the Mad Hatter definitely lost his mind in Wonderland,” and then Pinocchio. She continues flipping through pictures until she gets to the story about Cinderella and her prince. “Prince Charming is actually Prince Thomas? That’s dumb,” she scoffs. Then there’s the story of Robin Hood and Maid Marian at their wedding, “Too sappy. Next!”

The next photo she turns to is of the Evil Queen tied to a stake. Obviously being sentenced to death. She’s obviously trying to be strong, but Emma’s made a living studying people’s emotions and how they’re expressed. The Evil Queen looks scared.

“I don’t know this story,” Emma announces to her empty room. “They tried to kill her with arrows?” she asks as she looks at the picture closely. “But the story the Brothers Grimm told the story where they made the queen dance in hot shoes until she died.” She looks at the picture again, “And why is she blindfolded? What’s the point of that? And then Snow White called off her execution? And the fairy lady agreed? That doesn’t make any sense.” There’s another picture of this Evil Queen. “She looks much younger here. Her hair is down. She’s wearing less makeup. She looks...sad here...heartbroken maybe? I wonder what happened in that tavern that has her so upset.”

She continues flipping through the pictures.

“Boring.” Flip. “Creepy scaly man holding a book...of spells maybe? Man this book has some weird pictures in it. They’re so life-like, and yet...so not.” Flip. “Creepy scaly man again. Ohhhhh that’s Rumplestiltskin. He had scales? Yeah, I guess I can see that.” She pauses, studying the picture, “And he’s with...Belle? He’s the beast in this story? I did not see that coming. And oh wow,” she scoffs out an aww, “He’s got their teacup . Barf,” she adds with an eye roll.

Flip.

“Purple magical curses, flying to ruin the land. Awesome.” Flip. The Evil Queen interrupting Snow White’s wedding. “I shall destroy your happiness, if it’s the last thing I do? What kind of janky villain says something like that?” Emma laughs, “Oooh,” she coos, “I have goosebumps .”

Flip.

Snow White and Prince Charming holding a baby. “Emma.” She pauses, “But that’s...that’s my name. And that’s my baby blanket. But...but how? That doesn’t make any sense. How could any of this be real? That’s impossible.” A shaky page flip. Prince Charming bleeding, putting baby Emma in a tree. Which is some sort of magical wardrobe? “This isn’t real. It can’t be. It’s not possible.” 

Emma tosses the book aside, scooting up tight against her headboard, knees tucked up to her chest. Her head falls to her knees and she breathes deeply. She flops her head back to stare at the ceiling and sighs.

She puts her legs down and reaches for the book. “Hey, what happened to the thing with this?” she asks no one in particular as she looks around her bed; she sets the book on the edge of her desk as she searches. “Aha, here it is. A...snowglobe?” She reaches across her bed and grabs the snowglobe. When she picks it up she notices it had landed on its top. She rights it and the blob of black that was on the top of the snowglobe falls to the bottom. “That’s weird. Where’s the snow? And aren’t these things supposed to be attached?” Emma muses aloud.

“Aren’t you supposed to be a princess?” The globe talks back. 

Emma’s eyes pop. Did that thing just? No, it couldn’t have. It’s just a snowglobe. It sure sounded like it talked back. But that’s not possible. Did she drink something? Maybe somebody slipped something in her drink at the bar and it just took a really long time to take effect.

“Would you set me down already? You’re giving me whiplash with all this shaking,” the globe tells her. 

She drops the globe. It falls back on her bed and she hears a muffled shout. “Oops,” she says as she bends over to pick it up. She places it carefully on her desk, “I’m sorry,” she murmurs to the woman inside the globe.

The woman rolls her eyes, “You should be.”

Emma rolls her eyes but says nothing. The woman stands, brushing off her clothes. Which, now that Emma is paying attention, is quite an elaborate costume. 

She’s in tight, black leather pants, what looks to be a similarly black corset with silver accents along the top, and a black overcoat, the sleeves and shoulders of which make it look all the more intimidating; not to mention the way it hangs low to brush against the tops of her leather heeled boots. And then Emma turns her attention to the woman’s hair and makeup. There seems to be a sort of lace-crown around her head and her hair is in the highest ponytail Emma has ever seen, that much hair on her head must be painful she thinks to herself as she studies this woman. Her head falls from her ponytail down across her shoulder and Emma’s sure she’s never seen makeup so dark and foreboding before. The striking liner and lashes against surprisingly pale skin.

Emma realizes she’s being watched and looks at the strange woman in the globe.

“See something you like?” the woman asks with raised eyebrows and a smirk.

“Nope,” Emma says with a shrug, popping the ‘p’ as she sits back down on her bed. She studies the woman who suddenly seems transfixed with fixing her already-perfect in place outfit. “So, who are you?” Emma finally asks when she’s sure this woman won’t look up at her again.

The woman looks up, there’s a beat of surprise. “You don’t recognize me?” she asks.

“Should I?” Emma shoots back.

“Why, I’m the Evil Queen,” she says menacingly.

Emma pauses, her eyebrows shooting up in surprise, “Really?” Her lips twist in confusion. “I figured you’d be...scarier or something. Maybe a few more boils? I guess this just isn’t what I was expecting,” she adds with a shrug.

“You mean like this?” the woman asks as she flicks her wrists. Purple smoke swirls around her and when it disappears, she sees the wicked witch she was expecting. She looks old, boils on her face, her nose grew four sizes, her back in hunched and where she was once wearing tight, form-fitting clothing that was molded to her skin, now she’s in a black smock with a gray wool wrap around her shoulders. “How’s this, princess?” the rough voice asks.

Emma’s lip curls, “Super creepy,” she tells the woman. She pauses, “How did you do that?”

“Do what?” the woman asks as she flicks her wrists again, changing her appearance back to the way it was.

“That! That right there!” Emma says pointing her finger at the globe. “That, that purple smoke thing and the changing appearance thing!” 

“Magic,” the woman whispers from inside the globe.

Emma scoffs, “Yeah, right.”

The queen’s eyes narrow, “What else could it possibly be?” she snaps.

Emma shrugs, “I have no idea, but magic doesn’t exist here. This is the real world queenie.”

“Excuse me?” The queen asks, warning clear in her tone.

Emma ignores it, “You’re just a snowglobe. I’m obviously hallucination. Someone must’ve put something in my drink or something. I’ve just gotta sleep this off and it’ll all be better in the morning.”

“You believe yourself to be delirious?” the queen asks with a scoff. 

“Ugh,” Emma groans throwing herself back onto the bed. She puts an arm over her eyes and sighs, allowing the darkness to invade her brain. Her breathing settles and she’s almost convinced herself nothing has happened since she returned home.

Almost. 

“Are you done?” the woman questions into the silence.

Emma groans again, pulling her arm from her face and sitting up. “This can’t be happening,” she tells herself again. “I need sleep. That’s it. So, you just need to be quiet so I can do that.” She moves the globe to the far side of her desk, causing the woman to lose her footing. She lands on a knee and glares up at Emma. She shies away from the glare as she moves to turn her light out. The bed dips beneath her weight and she sighs, hoping for the peace sleep will bring her.

“Stop this petulance and turn on the light,” the woman growls.

Fuck. Emma sits up, “I need to sleep,” she responds, noticing the purple glow emanating from the globe. She reaches out and puts the box over the globe, hoping she can fall asleep now.

And she does. 

The sun shining through her window wakes her. It’s after seven. She rolls to a sitting position at the end of her bed, rubbing her eyes as she tries to wake up. She stretches her arms up above her as far as they go as she stands and moves towards the kitchen.

With the coffee pot brewing and a fresh set of workout clothes on, she heads out the door for a morning run. Her headphones tucked into her ears help block her thoughts as fast-paced music pounds in her ears. She’s back in her apartment soon enough, sweaty and exhausted. She pours herself a cup of coffee and moves into her bathroom, turning the shower on as she begins to undress. 

Her first sips warm her belly before she quickly showers and dresses for her day. She’s not going into work, so she dresses comfortably in a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. She pulls her wet hair into a ponytail and sits on her bed to finish her coffee.

“Shit,” she says as she turns her attention to her desk, finding the book and box, which she knows is hiding the snowglobe. So, last night wasn’t a hallucination. She groans, but moves to lift the box from the globe to find it still glowing purple.

The purple glow fades from around the queen as she lays on the bed she must have created overnight.

Emma watches the queen lay still on the plush-looking bed.

“Staring is incredibly rude,” the queen says without moving or opening her eyes. 

“You’re supposed to not be real,” Emma tells her, sitting on her bed.

“You’re supposed to be the Savior,” the queen retorts, finally sitting up. She stands and magicks away her bed, changing her clothes in the process. It’s an outfit similar to the day before, sharp in every way.

“What does that even mean?” Emma asks, nearly whining.

“I haven’t the faintest clue,” the queen tells her honestly, “But your parents seem to believe you can somehow save us all.”

“You all?”

The queen sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose. “I cannot believe you’re the one everyone is waiting on to save us.”

“Hey!” Emma says, “I didn’t sign up for any of this! Hell, I’m not even sure I believe any of it.”

With a roll of her eyes the queen shakes her head, “You can believe what you want, but until you figure out whatever you’re supposed to figure out, we’re stuck like this.”

Emma groans, “No! This cannot control me!” She flips the box back over the globe and storms out of the apartment.

***

This happens for a while. Their little back and forth. Emma will walk into her room, mentally ready to deal with the Evil Queen, they’ll converse for a short time, most of their time is spent bickering, and then she’ll storm out, leaving the queen to the darkness provided by the box around her.

“Enough!” she finally says when she’s sure Emma is going to storm out again. “I can manage to stay quiet if you promise to leave the box off.”

Emma pauses. Is that...fear? Her eyebrows draw together. “Explain.” She sits on her bed, watching the queen.

She takes a deep breath, magicking herself a chair to drape herself on. Another new thing they’ve grown into, becoming more relaxed around each other. Not enough to really trust each other, yet, but enough to show weakness. Infrequently. The queen creates herself a glass of a whiskey-like substance and takes a gulp. Well, a dainty queen-like gulp, but still. “I’m sick of the dark,” she finally says when Emma’s sure she won’t answer.

Silence. Emma knows there’s more to it. But she decides not to push. “Fine.” She stands up and leaves, but the box stays off the desk.

***

“What’s your name?” Emma asks into the darkness. The faint purple glow barely noticeable, showing that the queen is nearly asleep.

“Hmm?” she responds, another sign that she’s barely awake-she’s not articulating like usual.

“I keep thinking of you as ‘the queen’ or calling you Queenie, which I know you love ,” she adds with a silent smirk. Before the queen can respond she continues, “But you have to have a name.”

“Do I?” The queen asks, begining to return to consciousness.

Emma rolls her eyes, “Your name can’t be The Evil Queen,” she states.

“Can’t it?” she responds again.

Emma groans, “Come on, I know your mother didn’t name you The Evil Queen. But there’s no mention of your name in the book that showed up with you. And you have never mentioned it.”

“It never came up,” the queen responds.

Emma takes a deep breath, trying to remain calm and not snap at this difficult woman. “Just tell me,” she challenges.

Silence.

“Please?” she adds into the darkness.

More silence. But then a whisper, “Regina.”

Emma smiles, “That’s pretty. Regina,” she repeats. “It suits you.”

Again, nothing. “Goodnight Emma,” she, Regina, says, the smile evident in her voice.

***

“So why isn’t your name ever mentioned in the book?” Emma asks her the next morning while she’s eating her breakfast.

The queen lifts a shoulder, “I would assume whoever wrote it believed it to be irrelevant.”

“But it’s your name,” Emma reasons.

“In the book, at least in the parts you read to me, I was only ever the villain. My name didn’t matter. It only mattered that I was the Evil Queen.”

“Didn’t everyone in your town know your name? I mean, you were the queen before they added ‘evil’ to it.”

Regina shook her head, “I don’t remember anyone using my name after I married the king, save for my father. Everyone referred to me as ‘Your Majesty’ or ‘the King’s wife’.”

“That’s dumb,” Emma states.

Regina smiles, “I agree. But after the king died, your mother depicted me as the villain. Saw me as nothing but a coniving witch. Somehow, she came up with the moniker and the villagers loved it,” she rolls her eyes.

“Didn’t Snow White know your name?” Emma asks, still refusing to completely believe this fictional princess is actually her mother.

She nods, “She did.”

Emma raises her eyebrows, waiting for more of an answer. Regina is silent. “So how did you end up as her stepmother?” she finally asks.

“I married her father,” Regina says with a challenging smirk.

“You enjoy being difficult,” Emma tells her. “ How? ” she repeats.

“I saved her life and her father decided I, at barely 18, would be the perfect mother for a 12-year-old girl.”

“You saved her life?” Emma asks, surprise evident in her voice. Can you blame her? The Evil Queen hates Snow White. Repeatedly tried to kill her. But here she sits, the woman behind the story, claiming to have saved her life.

“I did.”

A pause. “How did that happen?” Emma pries.

“Her horse spooked while they were near my father’s home. I happened to be there when it happened and made the unfortunate mistake of helping the little brat,” she grumbles. But there’s something in her voice. It’s almost like nostalgia. But it’s gone from her face before Emma can place the emotion.

“So you saved Snow White’s life,” Emma says, still shocked at the very idea.

“And in return, she ruined mine,” Regina grumbles, eyes narrowed with a hatred that startles Emma. Very different from the look she had a moment ago.

“Wow,” Emma says, leaning away from the seething queen. “She was what, 12? How could she have ruined your life.”

The queen turns her rage onto Emma, “I was barely 18, marrying her father , a man older enough to be my father.”

Emma nods. That absolutely makes sense. And it makes her sick to think about that age difference. Sure, she’s dated older guys before. But that was her own, ridiculous, choice. She wasn’t ever forced into those relationships. And if she is to believe what the book at Regina say, this man is supposedly her grandfather. “But was that her fault or was it her father’s?” she asks, not truly knowing the answer herself.

“She killed my fiancé to make sure I married her father.”

Emma’s jaw drops, “What?” she asks.

Regina nods, “I was engaged to another man, planning to run away from this forced married. That was until Snow White had him killed. She wanted me as her stepmother and nothing would stand in her way.” 

“Holy shit,” Emma breathes, and sits back, processing this information. “How did a 12-year-old have your fiancé killed?” she asks, still confused.

“She told my mother my plan to run away after I told her not to. My mother was...not pleasant. And she made sure to kill my fiancé when we were trying to run away.”

“So, Snow didn’t actually have this person killed.”

“She absolutely did!” Regina shouts, with so much conviction it gives Emma pause. “I told her that under no circumstances could she tell my mother because she would not understand and would try to stop us, at all costs. I explained to her how dangerous it would be if my mother found out. She knew the severity, she just chose to ignore me because she wanted a new mother, and I was hand-picked.”

“So you tried to kill a 12-year-old because she told a secret?” Emma asks.

Regina narrows her eyes, “Of course not. I waited until she was an adult. Old enough to be married, old enough to be held accountable for her actions,” she reasons to herself. “Her father died, I gained control of the kingdom and knew I could finally have my revenge.”

Emma remains silent, currently debating if she should question more about the death of the king or if she should just be glad he’s dead. Men that force young women into relationships like the one Regina was in should suffer in life, in death, and in the afterlife - if that’s a thing. 

“What, no response?” Regin asks, watching Emma and her reactions intently. 

She shrugs, “I guess that answered my questions.”

Regina chuckles, a self-depriciating snort-like sound that makes Emma smile. 

They sit in a comfortable silence until Emma’s phone dings and she leaves, telling Regina she’ll “see her later.”

Their comfort around each other has grown as the days turned into weeks. Filling both woman with a sort of anxious-calm. They’re both waiting for the other shoe to drop, or the curse to spontaneous break. Neither of which happens. 

***

One day, after a long case finally closes, the jerk who jumped bail safely behind bars; Emma throws open the door to her apartment, just wanting to drink a beer and watch a stupid TV show before crashing. She’s been awake too long. She stumbles into her room, not turning on the light, but tossing her purse in the general vicinity of her bed. 

She missed.

Instead of hitting the bed, she hit her desk. Which just happened to be right where Regina’s snowglobe was. It flew off the desk, Regina releasing a startled scream as she fell to the ground.

Emma tenses, waiting for a crash, the sound of glass breaking, anything to show that she had just killed Regina, the only real friend she’d had in ages. Well, as real as a fictional villain trapped inside a magical snowglobe can be.

But there’s no glass breaking. There’s no purple smoke to show that Regina had saved herself. There’s only silence. Emma turns on the light to see the snowglobe on its side. She picks it up and gently places it back on her desk. “Sorry,” she murmurs as she watches the brunette stand and brush herself off, resetting the chair she must’ve been sitting in.

“What happened?” Regina asks, holding her head and attempting to figure out how she fell.

“I bumped you off the desk,” Emma says, looking down. She looks back up, an attempt at a crooked smile on her face, “At least we know smashing the globe won’t break the curse,” she adds with a forced chuckle.

“I’m glad we figured this out at the expense of my brain and spine,” Regina adds dryly. 

***

They’re softer around one another now. There’s less shouting and running away and more honest conversation. They share things with each other they’ve never told anyone before.

Regina speaks softly about her fiancé, Emma talks about her fear of this all being true, of eventually meeting her parents-the people who sent her away. Apparently, it was for the greater good, to save their people but who was this good for? Because she grew up alone, in a foreign world, with no guidance. 

They talk about loneliness, about shitty childhoods, about terrible parental figures, biological and foster. They talk about wanting happiness but not knowing where to look for it.

“I wish I wasn’t stuck in this thing,” Regina says one night as their confessing things into the dark. Emma remains silent so she continues, “I want to feel the sun without this prison aorund me. I want to sleep on a real bed, drink real drinks, and eat real food. These magical supplements leave much to be desired.”

Emma stays quiet, not sure what to say. “What would you do with your freedom?” she finally asks. 

It’s Regina’s turn to sit in silence. “I suppose I would disappear somewhere. Find a quiet place where no one knows who I am. Read a book I’ve never read before, learn to live without magic. I’d probably try to cook something.” She chuckles to herself, “I’ve never done that before.”

“What about your revenge?” Emma asks into the darkness.

Regina sighs, “I just want to disappear. Leave everything behind and start over.”

Emma nods, rolling onto her side, “I understand that.”

“What will you do? When all this is over,” Regina adds when she realizes her question doesn’t really make sense.

Emma shrugs, not that Regina can see it. “I’ll probably go back to my life,” she answers. “As much as I can, I guess.”

“And what about your parents?” Regina asks.

Silence. Emma thinks about just pretending to be asleep, not answering the question and trying to fall asleep. “I don’t know,” she finally answers. “I’m still not entirely sure this is real,” she states. “But if it is, those people put me into a freaking tree when I was only hours old. They sent me to a place they had no knowledge of because they wanted to save themselves from a curse they knew nothing about. I don’t know if I’ll be able to forgive them for doing something so incredibly irresponsible. And I don’t know if I’d ever be able to trust them again. I don’t even know them. They know nothing about me.”

“They’d be proud of you, Emma,” Regina says softly.

Emma’s breath catches in her throat. No one’s ever said that to her before. Never said it and never meant it.

Regina continues, “They’d be proud of the woman you’ve become, of the things you’ve overcome to be here. Of everything you’ve done to save them. They would be so proud.”

Her eyes are wet and she blinks frantically, trying not to let the tears fall onto her pillow.

“I hope you’re not asleep,” Regina says softly, hoping for an answer. When there’s only silence she sighs, “Goodnight, Emma,” she whispers into the darkness.

***

Emma’s in a mood. She wants to fight with someone. Anyone. And she decides to take her frustration out of Regina.

Regina’s all too quick to respond. Even with the months of comraderie built up, she’s still quick to anger. And she’s all too willing to fight with Emma.

They’re shouting, about what? They couldn’t tell you. But they’re pissed. 

“How dare you,” Regina growls when Emma tells her it’s her fault the curse isn’t breaking.

“You’re the reason we’re even in this mess!” Emma shouts. “If it wasn’t for you and your petty revenge, the curse would’ve never put you in that damned snowglobe and my parents wouldn’t have felt threatened enough to put their baby into a fucking tree trunk!”

Regina’s eyes narrow as her hands are set ablaze. Magic swirls around her as she spits, “I wish I could throw something at you.”

“I wish you were out here so I could smack you,” Emma retorts.

Before Regina can respond, the snowglobe is surrounded in a purple smoke. Just as quickly as it appeared, it disappears and Regina is left standing beside Emma’s desk, directly in front of her. 

Their anger is gone as quick as it came. In it’s place there’s shock. It’s finally done, the curse is broken. “Your- you’re here,” Emma stammers, staring at the brunette woman before her.

“I am,” Regina whispers, equally surprised.

“I can’t believe it. We broke the curse,” Emma starts, eyes wide.

“We did,” Regina says softly, still not believing she’s free.

Emma doesn’t give her the chance to process before she engulfs her in a hug. Regina can’t remember the last time she was touched, let alone hugged. And she falls into the blonde’s arms, clinging tightly to her jacket as she buries her face in the crook of Emma’s neck, right where it meets her shoulder.

They cling tightly to each other, reveling in the touch they’ve both been secretly waiting for for far too long.

“Now what?” Emma asks, not releasing her hold on the brunette.

Regina pulls back slightly, to look at Emma as she says, “I have no idea. I don’t know if there were rules for what happened after you broke the curse.”

“Awesome,” Emma scoffs with an eyeroll. “So we’re just gonna wing this too?”

Regina nods, “I think that’s our only option.”

“Fantastic,” Emma says with a laugh. “Are you ready for this?” she asks Regina, who will have to face everyone who despised her back in the Enchanted Forest.

“I don’t have any other option, do I?” she asks, hopeful for another option. Any other option.

“We could...maybe stall?” Emma offers.

“Stall?” Regina asks, “How?”

Emma shrugs, “I could maybe take you outside? The sun’s beautiful today,” she adds, remembering the way Regina loved to talk about the sun.

Regina smiles, a brilliant smile that takes Emma’s breath away. “That sounds wonderful, Emma.”

Her smile is returned and Emma released her back to take her hand. “First, the sun. Then, everything else.”

“Perfect,” Regina says, taking Emma’s hand, not planning to let go of it any time soon.