Emma flicking a pea from her plate at Henry is just about the last thing Regina is willing to put up with. She lays her napkin on the table and leans forward.
“Miss Swan, behave yourself or-”
“Oh or what? You’ll uninvite me from family dinner?” Emma rolls her eyes.
“Yes, I will.” Regina says without hesitation. “How are you with magical barriers these days?”
Emma scowls. “You know I’m off magic.”
Regina smiles mockingly. “Mmm. I don’t make idle threats, Emma.”
Emma scoffs and slouches back in her chair like the miserable teenager she probably would have been if she’d been afforded a normal life. “Will you lighten up? You’ve been such a drain since I got back.”
‘Got back’ is Emma’s euphemism for the moment she rid herself of the Darkness.
“Emma. Not tonight.”
Regina rubs her temples, not interested in revisiting the mess they’ve been making of their dynamic recently. Things had improved before Emma sacrificed her happiness for Regina’s. There had been a sharp downward turn since, but Regina’s unrelenting care for her while she was The Dark One had brought it back up a little. When she ‘got back’ things were ok for a hot second, and then not great, and now that Emma has decided to go cold turkey on magic, things are pretty bad.
Henry tries to ignore both of them and fails. He reaches for his water just to do something with his hands, but knocks it over. It splashes across the table and seeps slowly through the table cloth. Regina waves a hand instinctively clearing it up before the water warps the wood.
“Regina! Fuck!” Emma tenses immediately.
“Emma!” She reprimands for swearing in front of Henry.
“Oh my god!” Emma stumbles from her chair clutching her chest. “I think I’m gonna be sick.”
“Will I be allowed to clear that up?” Regina sighs.
“I’m not kidding.” Emma holds the back of one of the chairs to keep herself steady. “Your magic makes me want to hurl.”
“Charming.” Regina scoffs to hide the hurt of what is surely one of the worst insults Emma has ever thrown at her.
“Will you two stop?” Henry pleads.
“You know, Emma, you can try and tamp down your magic all you want, but it’s just going to come spilling out of you like last time and I’ll be the one to clear it up, just like last time.”
“Oh fuck you!” Emma’s eyes are fire, that Regina would dare bring up what happened in Camelot.
“Henry will you go upstairs please?” Regina says.
“Why?” He asks, frowning at them both.
“I’m going to murder your mother.” Regina says calmly.
“Mom, you’re a hero.” He says.
“Yes dear, but I’m not a saint.” Regina smiles.
“Just go, kid, I can handle your mom.” Emma rolls her eyes.
“You two are the worst.” Henry says, letting the door slam behind him.
“You’ve been like this ever since we got back, you’re mad at me for things I did when I was the Dark One, which isn’t fair!” Emma starts.
“I don’t bear any grudges against the way you behaved as The Dark One.” Regina says rising from her chair “I’m frustrated that you don’t seem to have learned anything from it.” Emma looks away and shakes her head. “I’ll contain my magic around you in public but not in my home, Emma. It’s a part of me, as automatic as breathing. I can’t pretend to be something I’m not around you just because you won’t accept who you are.”
...Are they still talking about magic?
Emma frowns. “So I am uninvited, for real?”
“They’re your terms, Emma. You set this boundary yourself. Come back when you get used to the idea of magic again.” Regina watches her, taking absolutely no pleasure in the thought of nights without her laugh filling the house.
“There is no ‘again’, Regina.” Emma says quietly. “This is it. Like, did you ever smoke and then give up and cigarette smoke smells way worse than it ever did? It’s like that.”
“I never liked smoking.” Regina’s voice lowers to match Emma’s. “When I knew Maleficent, smoke usually meant something bad.”
Emma doesn’t really want to think about that. “Right. Well, fine I won’t come round. Maybe we can go for dinner sometime?” She asks, “with Henry. Obviously.” she adds quickly.
“Fine.” Regina watches her for a moment. She’s so overwhelmed with the urge to look after her, to put everything aside, her own health, her own identity even, and just take care of her. But she’s done that before, she’s been that before. She can’t do it again. Even as Emma looks at the table sadly, like she’s already missing the time they spend there together.
“Before you go, I believe it’s your turn to do the dishes.” Regina says.
“Right.” Emma looks up, snapping out of her thoughts. “Can these all go in the dishwasher?”
“Not if I’m not to use magic around you.”
“The dishwasher has been broken for at least a year.” Regina picks up her wine glass.
Emma doesn’t move. “What?”
“So, would you like me to use my magic or to wash the dishes by hand?” Regina asks, knowing Emma’s stubborn response before she’s even heard it.
Emma stares at her for a moment. “This is punishment.”
“Merely a coincidence.”
“Has anyone ever told you that you’re evil?” Emma asks, picking plates up off the table.
Regina sips her wine. “I can’t recall.”
“Is it true you banned Emma from your house?” Snow asks with an incredulous look after barging into the diner with the force of a righteous elephant.
Regina sighs, morning ruminations thoroughly disrupted, and turns away from the counter to face Snow.
“Snow, what do you want from me?”
“I want to know if it’s true, she said you were angry with her and now she's banned. You know, you and Henry are an important support system for her-”
“Stop.” She holds up a hand and Snow does actually stop. “Emma asked me not to use magic around her, which is fine, but I don't want to have to be careful about it in my own home. I need one place where I can just be myself.” Regina says, feeling more energy ebb from her as she explains the horrible predicament she finds herself in.
“That sounds...reasonable.” Snow seems surprised and shrinks down to a normal sized person again. She smiles briefly at Ruby who shakes her head affectionately at her friend.
“Not what Emma's version sounded like?” Regina turns back to the counter to accept her coffee from Ruby.
“Well, I guess she got the main point across,” Snow says, frowning. Regina narrows her eyes pressing Snow into elaborate, “her version was more...confrontational.”
Regina laughs though it’s not really funny. “I may have threatened to kill her.”
Snow tips her head to one side in disapproval. “You two are terrible.”
“We’re getting that a lot this week.” Regina goes back to her coffee but Snow dithers. She takes a sip and turns back to her. “Anything else?”
“It just seems to me that she’s not...she’s not quite herself.”
Regina tries not to sigh again, feeling the unbearable weight of Snow’s concern as if it was about her. “Snow, she’s struggling. She’s trying to get back to herself but she doesn’t know which way is up.”
“She does seem a little unstable.”
“No, listen to me, she needs people around her who love her for whoever she decides to be now. She has met every challenge this town has thrown before her and now she just gets to be whatever she wants to be. The worst thing happened to her, she chose the worst possible thing, and she survived. She gets to do whatever the hell she wants while she figures out her place in the world, and if that choice means that for a while you don’t quite recognise her, then that’s your problem. Don’t make it hers.”
“There is no ‘just’, Snow. You have to give her the room to figure out what she wants now.” Regina aches “We all do.”
Henry convinces Emma to watch a movie at home with him and Regina after family dinner at the diner, which has been declared Switzerland.
“Popcorn looooove,” Emma sings to herself as she takes the hot bag from the microwave and shakes it around. “Popcorn lowooowoove, you were the girl I was dreaming of...”
“What is that?” Regina asks.
“Do you know the song Textbook Love?” Emma asks.
“Uh, well it's a song.”
“I’ll play it for you.” Emma pulls her phone out of her back pocket.
“It’s fine. Here's a bowl for that.” Regina waves a finger over her shoulder and the cabinet door opens. Emma lurches back and yelps, reacting to Regina's magic like someone might react to a slushie being thrown at them.
“Oh!” Regina turns quickly and the bowl that was about to make its way into Emma’s hands crashes to the floor. She goes to wave her hand again to clear it up but stops herself. They both stare at the carpet of diamonds created by the smashed crystal.
“Moms, you ok?” Henry shouts from the other room.
“We’re fine sweetheart, don't come in here without shoes.” Regina replies. “Are you alright?” She asks Emma quietly. Emma nods and stares at the floor.
Regina steps carefully over to her, crunching over the broken glass as she goes. “I'll clear that up later, give me that.” She takes the popcorn bag and empties it into another bowl.
“You’re sure you're ok?” She asks, suppressing the urge to reach out and touch her face, to pull her eyes to meet hers. Emma nods again. She doesn’t move. She stares at the floor but doesn’t seem to be looking at it. Regina touches her arm and squeezes. “Hey, you’re ok, everything is ok. It was my fault I’ll clear it up later.” Emma looks up at her with wide eyes. She looks scared. Regina’s thumb rubs her skin. “Everything is fine.”
Regina nods and she still doesn’t move. She puts the new bowl in Emma’s hands, turns her by her shoulders and nudges her towards the living room. The action seems to bring her back to the present.
“Hey, if I'm not allowed to have my phone out, neither are you.” Emma says, dropping to the middle of the sofa and nudging Henry's elbow.
“It's Violet.” He replies.
“Oooh…” Emma teases, then drops the voice as quickly as it came. “I don't care, put it away.”
He rolls his eyes and she turns to watch Regina kneeling by the DVD player, movie in hand.
“Yeah maybe we can double date.” Henry sniggers.
“That sounds pretty awkward, who am I supposed to be dating? I'm not gonna be some third wheel-”
“Ok, Netflix it is.” Regina sits down beside her and flicks it on with the remote.
“Is the DVD player broken too?” Emma asks.
“Yes.” Regina lies without looking and Emma smiles. She sees it from the corner of her eye. “What?”
“Nothing.” Emma licks her lips.
The movie starts and Regina tucks into a surprisingly small amount of space in the corner of the sofa. Henry compensates on Emma’s other side by taking up enough space for them both. She shuffles closer to Regina twice before she shoves his knee out of her hip.
“Knock it off, you have tonnes of room!”
“Not that quickly.” She elbows him in the leg and he springs away from her before retaliating.
“Will you two stop? Henry, you have enough room. Emma...stop manhandling our son.”
Emma pauses with her hand, Alien style, clamped over his face.
“He’s fi- WOAH DID YOU JUST LICK ME?” She wipes her hand on his jeans as he laughs at her. “That was gross, god, who raised you?”
“Stop it.” Regina says, and they do, except for a few low key nudges at each other. They’re half way through the movie when Emma checks her phone.
“Hey, no phones.” Henry elbows her in the ribs and she drops it into the remainder of the popcorn.
“Hang on, kid.” She fishes it out. She has more missed calls that she can count. “I'll be right back.”
Regina and Henry exchange a concerned glance across the sofa and when Emma’s out of the room Regina flicks her wrist and the movie pauses.
“Sheriff stuff?” Henry asks.
“Something serious,” Regina says, thinking about the number of missed calls she had seen on her screen, “she's not on call tonight.”
“The Sheriff is kind of always on call though.” Henry sighs and sits back in the cushions. “You want me to show you how to use the DVD player sometime?”
She doesn’t smile but her eyebrow arches comically high. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She pulls her phone out too and also has an alarming number of missed calls.
Emma appears at the door, phone to her ear still. “There’s been a fire, it’s mostly out now, I’m gonna go down and help.”
“We’ll come too.” Henry says. Regina is already up.
“No, please.” Emma holds a hand out to her. “I know you want to help but you’ll use magic and I need...I can’t be around that right now.”
“Emma, I have to help.” Regina says, incredulously.
“There is something you could do.”
“It sounds like some homes were damaged, people are going to need places to sleep.”
“I’ll be there when I’ve got a few things ready.”
Regina appears, thankfully far enough away from Emma that she doesn’t notice her arrival by magic. David is close by and comes over.
“We need to get these people to somewhere warm and dry.” He gestures to the people scattered around. The children are in their pyjamas and their parents mostly don’t have coats or jackets.
“Is anyone hurt?” Regina asks
“Yeah.” David says, brow furrowed. “No casualties.” The ‘yet’ hangs ominously in the air.
“How many people do you estimate need shelter?”
“That’s a lot.”
Regina checks the notes she brought with her. “Granny can house seven families, the school bus will be here in a moment to transport people. Do you have a list?”
“Yeah, here it is. How are you going to decide who stays where?”
She scans the list. “Well the bigger families will stay at Granny’s. The more people in beds, the better...Hmm, that’s a lot of people. Five beds can go up in the police station.”
“The cells?” David asks with surprise.
“Well I suggest you don’t lock them, David, that way they’re just camp beds.”
“Right, fine. I can take them in the jeep.”
“Great.” She writes their names down and tears off the list for him. “That still leaves a few people.”
“Yeah about half.”
“I have three guest rooms so I’ll take three families of course, four if they don’t mind sleeping in the office. That leaves about ten.”
“We can take two at the loft.”
“Great, that leaves one couple with two children, and...six children?”
“They are kind of in a group home situation. Marissa who takes care of them has been taken to the hospital.”
For a moment Regina stares at him as she shuffles families into accommodation like tetris in her mind.
“Ok, scratch that, I’ll take all of the group children and the other families will go to the hotel near the bay if they have room. I couldn’t get hold of them earlier so I’ll try a quick visit. I’ll be back soon. Can you round them up?”
When she’s back, there’s a large group waiting for her. Some of them stand in coats and slippers, some in t-shirts and some covered in soot. The group for Granny’s has gone already, as has the group for the police station and The Charmings. The only ones left are the six children and the families bound for the hotel. The school bus is returning for a final trip. There’s something rattling about the flashing lights of the town’s emergency service vehicles. The late night, the chill in the air, the billowing smoke, the citizens. It all feels a little close to home, but obviously her citizens need a leader right now, and reassurance.
“Hello everyone, you’ll be temporarily housed with me or at the hotel by the bay. If you’re staying with me I’ll show you everything when we get there. If you’re heading to the hotel Miss Gabble will see to all of your needs. If you need anything right at this moment, let me know, if not please make your way to the bus.”
Emma appears at her side, a swipe of soot on her face but otherwise fully intact. “This is incredible, you’re incredible.”
“Well I had to do something.” Regina says to mask the glow in her chest. This isn’t the time to bask in Emma’s good graces.
“The kids in the group, are they being split up?” Emma asks, watching the oldest comforting the younger ones, sadly.
“No, they’re staying with me.”
Emma’s eyes widen. “Madam Mayor, I’m impressed.”
“All in a night’s work, Sheriff. ” Regina replies with a smile over her shoulder as she heads for the bus. “Can you drive this?”
Regina sits behind the driver's seat. “Emma...” Regina warns.
“Ok everyone, my name is Emma and I’ll be your driver this evening. Please keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times. Make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in the upright and locked positions. Mayor Mills will be coming down the aisles with refreshments once our journey is underway. She is here for your comfort but primarily your safety. Thanks everyone, I hope you have a pleasant flight”
Some of the children laugh and the adults look reassured. Emma drops into the driver’s seat and their attention falls on Regina. She smiles her work-smile and turns back to Emma as she starts the engine.
“Sheriff, have you suffered a head injury this evening?”
“Perhaps you’re having a stroke?”
“Lighten up, Regina, I’m just trying to make them feel less scared.”
Regina looks back at the bus full of tired, sooty, upset people and can see that it worked. Their approaches may be different but if the Mayor and the Sheriff aren’t worried, it takes the edge off their worry too.
They pull up to the mansion last and Henry is waiting. Inside he distributes a supply of towels (that miraculously Regina has enough of) and toiletries (which he had made a run to the store for).
Snow radios the all clear from the fire site, everyone is accounted for. Between the three of them, Emma, Regina and Henry get the children settled with all the things they need and point them to various bathrooms to get clean. Emma and Henry make a large pan of hot chocolate to warm people up while Regina pulls out all of Henry’s old clothes to see if any will fit the children. While she sorts them a little girl with curly brown hair stands half concealed by the door frame. Regina kneels by her.
“Hello, what’s your name?” She doesn’t answer, only looks down. Regina’s eyes follow. “I like your shirt.” Regina says. It’s white with Minnie Mouse on it. Or at least it had been white once, now it’s blackened and dirty. “Would you like to get cleaned up and put on some fresh pyjamas?” She nods. “Ok. Do you want me to come with you, Minnie?” The girl giggles and twists her little hands in her t-shirt. “Ok, would you like some hot chocolate?” She asks, seeing the goosebumps up her arms for the first time. She nods again.
Emma already has a sippy cup ready when Regina stands. She hands it to her with a goofy smile.
“What?” Regina asks.
“Nothing.” Emma shakes her head.
“It’s not nothing, what is it?”
Emma smiles again and shrugs. “It’s just cute.”
“She seems quite shy.” She replies. Emma frowns as if that hadn't been what she meant, but Regina misses it, turning to check on the girl again. She has edged away from the door and to the counter where Regina stands. “Hello.” She says again when she appears behind her legs.
“Hi.” Emma smiles. Minnie crushes her face into Regina’s leg to hide.
“Gosh Sheriff, you don’t have to scare the children like that.” Regina says in mock annoyance.
“What?!” Emma plays along. Minnie giggles again and peeks out at her. “Hello?” Emma says and she hides again.
“Emma!” Regina gasps and Minnie’s laugh fills the kitchen.
“Well fine, if I can’t scare children maybe I’ll make friends with them. Anyone in here want hot chocolate?”
Minnie stops laughing and just watches as Emma looks around the room. Regina kneels with the sippy cup.
“Would you like some hot chocolate, Minnie Mouse?”
The girl smiles and nods. Regina holds out the cup which she takes with both hands.
“Ok.” Regina opens her arms and Minnie climbs right into them. She shifts her a little so she sits on her hip. Regina holds her like she’s meant to be there and Minnie buries her face in her neck any time Emma speaks or looks at her. Regina interprets the look in Emma’s eyes, pained and longing, as her remembering Henry as a baby. She imagines it’s hard for Emma to be around children, even with memories of baby Henry, knowing that she had never really had that with him.
“Could you get a mug, Emma?” she asks.
Emma jumps to action. “Yeah, yeah of course, um.” She turns to look for the right cupboard.
“Over there.” Regina points.
“Yeah I know I just...I’m just tired I guess.”
Sympathy rises up in Regina. When Emma brings her the cup she places a hand on her upper arm. They don’t touch often so she hopes Emma takes the sentiment from it that she intends. She brushes her thumb over her skin and Emma stops moving completely.
“You did well tonight, everyone said so. You should get some rest.”
“Yeah…” Emma stares until Regina drops her hand. Her cheeks turn a little pink and she looks away, “about that, can I sleep on your couch? David and Mary Margaret gave my room to a couple with a kid.”
“Oh, of course you can stay here, let me just-”
“No, you go take care of that little monster, I can find a blanket.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, is the study ok?”
“Yes, that’s fine.”
Emma finds a blanket easily. Regina is the linen closet type. She has a good selection and Emma chooses a wool blanket. It’s a little scratchy and she likes it. She sets up in the study on the sofa nearest the fire. It’s late, or maybe early. She checks her phone. All’s quiet. Everything seems to be sorted until tomorrow. Her day will be busy, but she feels ok about it. No one died. No one has been left in the cold. For tonight, everyone is safe.
She sits facing the fire and rubs her hands together, though they’re not cold. She can’t get the image of Regina and Minnie out of her mind. Regina walking around with a child on her hip like it’s the most natural thing in the world. She looks regal and humbled and like a light has switched on inside her. She loves that Minnie isn’t scared of her in the slightest, but the opposite, she feels safe with her. Emma empathises. She feels safe with her too. She feels safe with Regina on her side, with her helping, with her.
Something familiar but just out of reach comes back to her. Something from when she was the Dark One. Something about Regina, some intimacy they shared, something that made her feel closer to Regina than anyone else. But she can’t quite put her finger on it. It’s like waking up from a dream and still having feelings about it after forgetting what happened. She sighs and rubs her eyes. Regina and Minnie and the soft voice she used with her, easy smiles, bright eyes. Something about children opens up Regina’s heart and Emma just feels lucky to have witnessed it. And then she had touched her arm. What did that mean? It felt like something. She’s being an idiot. What had the look in Regina’s eyes meant, though? She lets her face sink into her hands as she tries to straighten out the chaos in her head. Fire, panic, logistics, sirens, children, Regina, safety, team.
The last of the hot chocolate in the kitchen might help her sleep. She decides to finish it and hears something as she walks through the foyer. The only light comes from the Christmas tree in the hall. She’s sure she can hear someone singing or humming gently. She hopes it’s one of the children. If it’s Regina...well she can’t think about that. She should go get her hot chocolate but she can’t move. She knows the tune. She knows the words. Regina used to sing it to baby Henry. In Emma’s memories she used to sing it to Henry. Arrorro mi nino . She feels her heart just about break thinking of Regina singing this to scared little Minnie.
After a while the singing stops and Emma still hasn’t moved, she just stands in the hallway with her hands in her pockets and her eyes closed.
Emma looks up. Regina stands at the top of the stairs looking down at her.
“Are you ok?”
“Yeah, just…” Trying not to think about the feelings I get when I see you with children? Maybe a little too true. By the time Regina reaches the bottom of the stairs she still hasn’t ended her sentence. Regina is barefoot, steps quiet, her sleeves rolled up from bath time.
“You haven’t done any magic tonight.” Emma says thinking she could live like this. Life could be perfect. She doesn’t realise there’s A Look in Regina’s eyes until it vanishes.
“I suppose not. Not around you, anyway.” She says.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean anything.”
“I know. I don’t want you to be sorry. I just want you to be...you. Whatever that means now.”
Emma feels everything that anchors her disappear in an instant. What does that mean? What does she want? What is she supposed to do? She feels the ache and the familiar almost-memory at the back of her mind.
“Do you remember what happened? You know when it all... happened ?” Emma asks, referring to the end of her reign as the Dark One.
Regina takes a deep breath. Her eyes seem to search Emma’s and she wishes she hadn’t asked. She wishes she hadn’t stood in the hallway. She wishes she had been able to sleep on that sofa, the same one she sat on the first night they met.
“You don’t remember it at all, do you?” Regina asks in a whisper.
Emma shakes her head. “Don’t worry about it.” She says, trying to leave it there and escape.
“Emma,” Regina touches her arm again, what does that mean?? “you chose light.”
“But how?” Emma asks, unable to imagine something strong enough to tear her out of the depths she had descended to. “What did I do? Why does magic make me want to throw up?” She pauses for a moment, recognises pain skim across Regina’s features. “What happened to Killian? Why has no one made me sit and listen to what happened?”
Regina’s hand drops to her side. “No one is going to force you to do anything. Everyone is giving you space to figure things out.”
“Why you chose light, how you managed, how you ripped the darkness from yourself.” Regina shrugs meaning everything.
The aching memory fills her mind. Arthur and the sword, Killian, Rumple and Nimue and the Darkness itself and Regina. Regina standing in front of injured Snow, hands on fire, looking like a lioness guarding cubs. Henry and a quill, shrouded in green light, protected by Zelena who glances at Regina for reassurance. Everything black but for them. Nothing but her own fears and doubts, dread eating away at her, power telling her to take and to force. Then it was gone.
She sees Regina in front of her again, kind of short with no heels on and with the lights from the tree reflecting in her inscrutable eyes.
“I don’t understand.” Emma says.
Regina watches the sadness on Emma’s face grow. There’s nothing she can do. She wants to hold her, to rub her back and tell her everything will be ok, but she can’t. That’s a level of closeness, of intimacy that she isn’t entitled to. Some days she’s angry at Emma for not seeing what’s in front of her. Some days she’s overwhelmed by even the idea that Emma had won her fight against evil, and that she had been a part of it. Some days it’s enough just to be in her life, and have Henry, and be their little family. Some days, usually when Henry stays with Emma, she lets herself hurt and cry.
“I’ll tell you everything I know from that night if you want, but you have never wanted that until now.” Regina says.
“I know. I don’t know if I want that. Maybe it will just,” she shrugs, “settle down.”
‘It won’t.’ Regina thinks ‘It can’t.’ The loss of memory of what happened that night will needle at Emma until she lets it in. Something is keeping it away and Regina firmly believes it’s her. Emma had chosen light, but she had also chosen her. When there was nothing left, when it was only her and Killian. Emma had been forced to make a terrible choice and now her mind is protecting her the only way it knows how.
“How’s Minnie?” Emma asks.
“Oh” Regina blinks, thrown by the change of subject. “She’s fine. She wanted to sleep in my bed, so that’s where she is.”
“Lucky girl.” Emma smiles. Regina’s heart skips a beat. “I should probably go to bed. We have a busy day tomorrow.”
“Yes we do.” Regina nods, looking at the floor.
“Ok, night.” Emma smiles a little and her dimples show.
Alone in the hallway Regina closes her eyes and remembers that night. Emma had chosen light, life, family, Henry, it was enough. It should be enough. She waves a hand and the front door locks. She walks up the stairs for what must be the hundredth time that night and jumps when she sees Henry sitting at the top of them.
“We have to tell her sometime.” Henry says quietly.
Her hand still rests on her chest. “I know, sweetheart.”
“You’re the only one who knows everything.” Henry looks at her like he hasn’t for a while. As if she’s the one with the answers, but she hardly has enough answers for herself, let alone him.
“She has to want to know.”
“She does want to know,” He says, getting to his feet, “she’s just scared.”
“I know.” She replies.
“And so are you.” He puts his arm around her.
She frowns at him but he’s right. She is scared for Emma to know everything. To know she had chosen Regina and that her choice had killed Hook and stolen love from her life once more. She’s scared Emma will regret it, will blame her and she’s scared she’ll lose her again.
“When Emma wants to know, she’ll know.” Regina says. “Now bed, you have school tomorrow.”
“I can help with the fire stuff.” He tries.
“We have a fire department for that. Bed. Now.”
He huffs and turns around. She heads to her own room where Minnie snuffles quietly.
“Love you, mom.” Henry says before disappearing to his own room where one of the boys sleeps soundly on a camp bed.
“I love you too, son. Sleep well."
In which there are confrontations, unread messages and a whole bunch of pining.
Emma wakes to a scream and something hitting her hard in the legs. She jerks up, gasping. Her nightmares have been getting better but her dreams are still vivid, detailed and exhausting. A laugh follows the scream as she tries to move her legs. Minnie crawls up the blanket, putting a little foot in her hip, a hand on her chest and pulling herself up to look at her. Minnie puts a little hand either side of her face and stares. Emma stares back into her big brown eyes, not sure what she’s supposed to do next.
“Good morning.” She tries.
Minnie shrieks and leaps off her, feet kicking off from all sorts of uncomfortable places.
“Good morning.” She hears from the door.
Minnie crashes into Regina’s legs and holds up her arms. Regina swings her up onto her hip with ease.
“Morning.” Emma replies, wiping her face and hoping her hair is at the calm end of her bed-head spectrum.
“Did you sleep ok?”
“Yeah, pretty good actually.”
“I’m making coffee before the madness starts.”
“The madness?” Emma groans.
“There are six children upstairs who all need to wash, dress and eat before they go to school, Emma.”
“Right,” Emma reaches for her jeans which are slung over the back of the sofa, “just let me get dressed and I’ll be with you.”
“You don’t have to, I’m sure I can handle it.” Regina says.
Emma laughs. “You might be able to curse this town into the next plane of existence, tame a dragon, trick a chernabog and defeat every Dark One that ever was, but not one of the children in this house is scared of you, Regina.” Regina looks like she doesn’t know whether to be pleased or offended. “Give me five minutes.”
“Fine.” Regina says after a moment and turns to leave the study. Emma catches the smile that starts to curl the corner of her mouth.
She throws the blanket off, pulls on her jeans, checks her face in the mirror and leaves her shirt in the hallway with her jacket. She’s going to have to go home and change anyway, her tank will do fine around the house.
The downstairs bathroom is pristine. There’s a packet of toothbrushes and a tube of toothpaste by the sink. She takes one and goes to town. She hadn’t bothered the night before and she regrets it now. She has a quick wash, choosing a towel from the bottom of the pile in case the ones on top are display towels. Her hair goes up and she’s ready for battle.
When she enters the kitchen she sees Minnie sitting on the countertop watching everything Regina does with utter fascination.
“Okay, what’s the plan?” Emma asks.
“Minnie just needs a change. The girls can use my bathroom to wash, the boys can use Henry’s and there’s the downstairs bathroom for Shan if they want their own space. I’ll make breakfast for,” She counts quickly on her fingers, “nine.”
“Or we could go to the school via Granny’s?”
“And have them as well nourished on sugar and salt as you are? I don’t think so, Miss Swan.”
“Fine.” Emma goes behind Regina to get juice out of the fridge. She touches the small of her back and Regina stops slicing fruit. For safety, Emma thinks, ignoring the current of electricity passing from her skin to Regina’s and back. It’s so she doesn’t nudge the knife off course.
“Can you finish this? I’ll get Minnie dressed before it turns into total chaos upstairs.” Regina says as she scoops Minnie up and quickly leaves the room.
Emma follows after a second. Maybe they should double team the kids, Emma could take the boys. She opens the door and catches a wisp of purple smoke. It’s gone in a second but it’s already in her, like a smell that gets caught in your nose, it’s in her mind, her body reacts to it with a jolt and she becomes lightheaded.
Someone shouts upstairs and she goes. She runs, hoping to leave the sticky, aching left behind by the magic downstairs.
“I don’t want to!” Someone shouts “You can’t make me!”
A boy easily as tall as Regina bears down on her. Regina’s body language is firm and her expression neutral. She doesn’t seem fazed, but this kid is red-faced and upset.
“I don’t want a stupid shower in your stupid house! I just wanna go home!” He yells.
“You’re going to,” Regina says calmly, “but you’re going to school as usual first. Do you want to smell like smoke all day?”
“Look lady, I don’t want to. No one can make me. I don’t care if you’re the Mayor. You can’t touch me.” He says, his face getting closer to Regina and Minnie in a way Emma Does. Not. Like.
“Hey, everything ok?” She asks as she gets to the top of the stairs.
Regina turns to her but Emma’s looking at the kid. Henry and another boy look on from his bedroom. The girls peek out of Regina’s bedroom door.
“Uh...” the kid’s eyes grow wide as he sees her, “y-yeah.”
“You getting in the shower? There’s a queue and breakfast will be ready soon.” She puts her hands on her hips. His eyes go to her arms and he backs way off Regina.
The boy next to Henry disappears back into the bedroom.
“Whatever.” He says before heading into the bathroom.
The other kids disappear. She doesn’t know what's going on. She hadn’t shouted. She wasn’t being scary. Henry, Regina and Minnie are the only ones left. Regina slides Minnie down to the floor and she toddles over to Henry. Henry looks to Regina for guidance and she tips her head up briefly. He closes the door and it’s just them.
“Well you’re right, they’re not scared of me.” Regina says with a sigh.
“Are they scared of me ‘cause I’m police or something?” Emma asks.
“I don’t think so, Emma.”
Emma looks down at her arms. Oh yeah. When she had thrust the dagger into the Darkness to save Regina it had curled around her arm, a crushing, burning pressure that left a twisted spiralling scar down her arm and across half her chest.
“Oh yeah. I’ll put my jacket on.” She turns to head down the stairs and swallows the lump in her throat.
“Emma.” Regina catches her hand, the scarred hand and she turns back to her. “It’s just a scar. Everyone has them. I have one on my face. Not so easy to hide.” She smiles as Emma’s eyes fall to her lips.
It’s not the same. It’s not the same. Emma’s scar is a mark of darkness. She’ll never truly move on as long as it reminds her every day how badly she failed.
“How did you get yours?” Emma asks.
Regina’s smile slowly fades from her face. “My mother.”
She hadn’t expected that. “I’m sorry.”
Regina shrugs. “I barely see it anymore.”
“It’s a beautiful scar, though. Is that a weird thing to say?” Fuck. “Doesn’t it remind you?” Emma says, trying to cover her tracks.
“If anything it reminds me of what I have now that I didn’t then.” Regina says, holding her gaze.
“That’s good.” Emma nods and looks down.
“May I tell you what yours reminds me of?” She asks, thumbing the brand Darkness left on her hand. Emma nods, “It reminds me of what you did for me, for my happiness.”
Emma smiles and thinks of how deeply Regina had wanted to believe in the soulmate thing, and how wrong it had all been. “Yeah, that didn’t work out so great in the end though, did it?”
“It’s not Robin’s fault that he’s-”
“A supreme asshole and a wet blanket?”
Regina tries not to smile at the ex-boyfriend solidarity hating she has never experienced before, “-not cut out for this life.” Emma looks away again, down the stairs, wanting to leave conversations about darkness and Robin behind. “This scar doesn’t mean darkness to me, Emma. It means l-”
She turns to see one of the older girls at her bedroom door.
“I’ll finish breakfast.” Emma says and hurries downstairs before she can scare any more kids.
“You’re not using magic” Henry accuses as she refills her coffee.
“I don’t need to.” Regina says.
“But usually you would.” He says under his breath.
She sighs, “Henry.”
“Mom, what you said about your magic, you were right, it’s you. You can’t hide it, but you’re trying to.” He frowns.
He leans on the counter and watches while she avoids his eyes. “I know why. Don’t think I don’t, because I do. I’m not stupid even if you two are.”
“Why are we stupid?” Emma asks, sauntering into the kitchen and reaching between them for the coffee pot.
“We’re not stupid. Henry if you’re ready go get in the car.” Regina says.
“I’m going with Emma.” He says as he stomps away.
“He’s grumpy this morning.” Emma says with a questioning look at Regina. She doesn’t respond. “You ok?”
“I’m fine.” She can practically see Emma’s lie detector going off in her eyes. “We have a lot to do.” She pushes past her and starts sending kids out to cars. She can feel Emma watching her. She just needs some space to clear her head.
When they arrive at the school some are quicker than others to go inside. Minnie clings to Regina like a koala as she carries her up the steps of the school.
“Hello Liana, looks like you’ve made a new friend.” Snow greets them.
“Liana?” Regina looks down at her. She buries her face in her neck again. “Of course.” She remembers now, although since they gave her a nickname everyone has been using it. “We’ve been calling her Minnie.”
Snow glances at the freshly laundered Minnie Mouse tshirt. “Ah, of course. Well we don’t teach mice at this school, we only teach children. Are there any children here?”
Liana peeks out and smiles. “Ah I think there are. I’ll pick you up after school.” Regina says and puts her down, though she still clings to her hand.
“You’ve made a lifelong friend there.” Snow’s smile is sweet and knowing, and she doesn’t even mind. Snow’s gaze is drawn past her and Regina turns to see what she’s looking at.
Henry and Emma sit in the front seats of the bug. He’s talking but his voice is raised. Emma is shaking her head. He slams the dashboard and Emma looks at him in shock. He stares back for a moment and gets out of the car.
“Be better!” He shouts and slams the door.
He doesn’t look at her or Snow as he storms past them both. They both turn back to look at Emma. She leans on the car window with her hand over her eyes.
“I wonder what that was about.” Snow says, looking at her daughter with concern.
“I think I can guess.” Regina replies, dangling her insider knowledge in front of Snow with no intention of elaborating. Liana slips from her grip to follow Henry.
“See you later.” Snow says. Regina nods.
She opens the passenger door of the bug and gets in. Emma turns to look at her but doesn’t speak.
“We’re going to the same place, we might as well carpool.” Regina says, putting on her seatbelt.
Emma stares for a moment longer before starting the engine. “I’ll drop you off. I need a shower and some new clothes.”
“And tonight, will you be staying?” Regina asks.
They drive the rest of the way to city hall in silence. Emma bites at her lip and Regina tries not to watch her. If she doesn’t want to say what’s bothering her, she doesn’t have to. When they pull up Emma switches off the engine.
“I’ll see you later. I’ll bring the kids home and help with dinner but I can’t stick around.” Emma says, deflated.
“Is there a reason you can’t stick around ?”
“Everything you said, Regina. You shouldn’t have to pretend in your own home. I’ve just...got my stuff. I don’t want to inflict it on you.”
“You’re not inflicting anything on me.”
“I am. Henry said so and he’s right, you didn’t do any magic around me last night.”
“Last night was different.” Regina says, thinking it might have been a hell of a lot easier with some magic to help things along.
“And if I stayed tonight would it be different? If I stayed would you do magic, or hold back even though you said you wouldn’t? You say one thing and do another and I don’t want to be the reason you fail standards you set for yourself. So I’ll see you at work.”
Emma doesn’t look at her. Her hand is locked to the wheel as she stares straight ahead. Regina gets out and slams the door. She doesn’t look back once, though she knows Emma is watching her walk away. She’s so angry but at who? Herself? Emma? Henry? Has anyone behaved unreasonably? She’s the one who said one thing and then did another. And now there will be no late night talks in the half dark that teeter on the edge of the thing they don’t talk about. No shared looks when the children are funny. No person close by who just always knows. Her anger gives way to a need to just carry on. The car doesn’t start and if it’s still there when she gets to her office and glances out of the window, she doesn’t care to acknowledge it.
That afternoon there’s a big meeting about how to recover and rebuild after the fire. Emma doesn’t talk much. Regina takes over. It’s more logistics than anything else. The money for temporary accommodation is sourced without hesitation, money for repairs is found, plans to rebuild are sketched out, Archie’s services are acquired for the people affected, Snow suggests some kind of get-together for people affected and people who want to help. Regina leaves that with Snow to deal with. The people in the hospital are mostly due to be released today or tomorrow. Still no fatalities, it looks like they’re in the clear. The group kids will be back with Marissa in temporary accommodation by the end of the weekend.
Regina doesn’t wait for Emma once the meeting is over, though she feels like she should. She feels like they have shared responsibilities, like this whole thing fell to them both, together, but Emma’s putting distance between them that she has to respect. Or at least that’s what she pretends is her reason. Really she just doesn’t want to be around her at all after what she said in the car. She hasn’t had time to process Emma’s words or her own feelings.
Emma knocks on her office door for what is probably the first time ever.
“Hey, I just wanted to check what time you want a lift back to the school.” She says.
“I can walk if it’s such a problem.” Regina answers without looking up. It’s almost nostalgic. For a second she remembers the woman who tried to cut down her apple tree, a completely different Emma to the one crowding her office.
“Regina, I’m trying to do you a favour.”
She looks up from where she stands by the window and closes the file she had been reading with a snap. “Emma. If you want to do me a favour you’ll ask about how you ended it all. You’ll listen and ask questions and understand instead of hoping it goes away.” Regina walks towards her not unlike a very dangerous predator. “How are you ever going to get back to yourself if you keep pretending it never happened? You’re not doing me a favour, you’re excusing yourself. You feel like a martyr again and you think you’re the only one who’s hurt by any of it.”
“Who else is hurt by me not spending time at your house?” Emma asks.
“Henry is.” Regina says quickly, like an utter coward. She musters some strength. “And I am.”
“That might be the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me.” Emma mocks.
“Don’t do that.”
“Don’t joke about this like it’s nothing.”
“What is it then, if it’s not nothing?” Emma asks.
“If you knew what happened, you would already have the answer to that question.” Regina raises her voice.
“I am getting way mixed messages from you.” Emma says. “You want to do magic, but you want me around. You want me to know, but you won’t tell me.”
“That’s rich! You said you didn’t want to know! You know what? Maybe you are doing me a favour after all. I have things to do, Miss Swan, you can show yourself out.” Regina opens the file again and ignores her.
“God!” Emma shouts “I hate it when you do that!” Emma walks up, snatches the file and throws it across the room. Papers flutter to the ground everywhere as they face each other. Emma’s chest is heaving. They’re nose to nose. It takes every ounce of Emma’s self restraint not to look at her lips, not to end this stupid fight by kissing her.
“Is this how I did it?” Emma asks, searching her eyes. “Is this what I did? Is this why I have dreams about our hands together tearing the Darkness out of me?”
Regina doesn’t blink.
“Because that’s what I dream about, Regina. I dream about being so close to you that it feels like you’re inside me-”
Regina swallows and her eyes widen.
“-and I can’t see anything but I know we’re working together because I can feel your hands as if they were mine and our magic merges together and grows until my spine is tingling, and yours is tingling and where I was drowning in Darkness I become blinded by light, like sunlight but stronger-”
Her vision focusses back on Regina whose eyes are full of unreleased tears. Emma realises she’s holding her arms pretty tightly and lets go. Regina stumbles away from her a little.
“I’m sorry.” Emma wipes her mouth “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” She repeats as she backs away.
“Emma-” Regina’s voice cracks and even though Emma turns her back to her as she reaches for the door she knows those tears have escaped and are scorching Regina’s face. She’s gone. Regina could catch up with her any second if she wanted to, and she prays she won’t. What a line to cross, what a stupid, stupid thing to do. She pushes it all away, the feeling she gets when she remembers that dream, the safeness, closeness, belonging, kind of the same feeling she gets watching Regina hold Minnie. She won’t let herself name it, but she knows it’s home.
“Fuck.” Emma pulls the car over suddenly. The kids need to be picked up from school soon. She checks her phone and has a message from Henry.
Zelena’s helping mom tonight. Are you gonna be around? X
Emma drops her phone in the passenger seat, rests her head on the steering wheel and cries.
“SALAKADOOLA MENCHICABOOLA BIBBITY BOBBITY BOO.” Zelena sings as she performs the most mundane tasks with magic and the kids giggle and laugh around her. Regina can’t help but smile. Zelena’s as much of a sucker for children as she is. She wonders if it helps them both to heal old wounds. Henry opens the kitchen door laughing.
“Mom, Zelena just made a pillow fort that doesn’t fall down, it’s so funny.” He hops up onto the counter in Emma’s spot.
“I’m glad, could you stir that pot for a moment?” She asks.
Henry doesn’t move. “I can. But can’t you just use your magic?”
She pauses, then nods and flicks her wrist. The pot stirs itself like a prop from a Harry Potter movie.
“Is that apple pie?” Henry grins.
“It’s three apple pies, these children have the appetite of your mother.”
She hears the swish of Henry’s jeans stop as he no longer swings his legs. She continues chopping and swallows the lump in her throat. Suddenly she’s enveloped by a pair of arms.
“I love you, mom.” Henry squeezes her. How can he be big enough to wrap her up like this? She places the knife on the chopping board and holds his arms. They stand there long enough for Regina’s thankfulness for him to overtake the pain she feels for herself.
Dinner is hilarious. Regina hasn’t laughed so much in a long time. Zelena messes with all the kids and insists she isn’t doing anything. Farah doesn’t want to eat her rice and beans so Zelena makes them dance. One of the boys eats a slice of chilli after being dared by another and his skin turns completely red for a whole minute. Regina gets him a glass of milk while all the kids howl with laughter and Zelena eats her pastelon like nothing whatsoever is happening. Part way through Zelena explaining that in Oz everyone only eats green apples her nose starts to lengthen. The children giggle as she gets more and more animated until it grows into her line of sight and she shrieks and falls off her chair.
“Yes?” She answers innocently.
“A duel!” Zelena stands up and swishes her finger to shrink her nose back to normal size.
“Absolutely not.” Regina says, remembering being thrown into the clocktower by Zelena almost fondly.
“Because I’d win and I need your help to clear all of this up.”
The children laugh.
“Alright, what if we use the children as weapons? Then there’ll be no one to tidy up after.”
The kids howl and Regina considers it. “How about instead, a marathon?”
“Ah,” Zelena says, “a movie marathon?”
The children are practically leaping from their seats.
“Farah, Peter, Jama, help me clear the table please. Zelena, Shan, Ellie can you set up the living room please? Minnie, can you make sure they do it right?” Minnie giggles and shakes her head. Regina rolls her eyes and huffs. “Fine, Henry?”
“I’ll supervise, will you help me?” He asks Minnie. She takes his hand and they go together.
Farah, Peter and Jama start to clear the table but Regina asks them to sit back down.
“I wanted to thank all three of you for helping with the other kids. I know this is hard for everyone and I really appreciate what you’ve done.”
Jama watches her intently. Farah smiles briefly. Peter avoids her eyes all together.
“You’re the oldest, but that doesn’t mean you’re not still kids. What do you all want to do tomorrow?” They look at each other but say nothing. “The younger ones will go along with things. What do you feel like doing? Movies, shopping, a trip out on a boat? My treat to say thank you.”
“I don’t really want to do anything.” Peter says.
“I saved some money to go shopping, but Marissa might need it now.” Farah says.
“Let me worry about Marissa. I would love to go shopping with you, I need some good advice and Zelena is useless.” Regina rolls her eyes and Farah laughs.
“Do you want to see Marissa in the hospital?” she asks. Peter nods but the other two look unsure. “Do you want to go by yourself?” he nods again. “Do you want to take her some flowers?” He looks at her with the same look Emma gets sometimes when she thinks she’s about to become too burdensome. “Have a think about it, whatever you choose will be on the house. The owner of Game of Thorns owes me a of favour.”
Peter smiles for the first time in two days. “This morning...” He says and glances at the other two. They start to get up.
“Jama, will you let me know what you want to do when you’ve decided?” She asks.
“Oh, I’m coming shopping!” He smiles.
“Perfect.” Regina smiles back and they leave.
“I hate school.” Peter says. It’s not what she expected.
“Do you want to talk about why?” She asks.
“Can I do anything to help?”
“Marissa says I have to stay in school, but I want to get a job.”
“Why do you want a job?” she asks, crossing her legs and feeling like there’s much more to this than wanting to feel grown up. His eyes water.
“The others, they ask for things all the time, but there’s nothing to give. Marissa works really hard and she gives them what they need, but they shouldn’t ask. I can’t ask.”
“What would make things better?”
“If they stopped asking for things all the time!” He says and his cheeks burn. “And if I get a job then we’ll have more money and she won’t have to worry.”
“Ok. Why don’t I speak to Marissa about some opportunities I know of?” His eyes light up. “She’s still your guardian, it’s not up to me it’s up to her.”
His face falls again, “She won’t let me, she says I have to stay in school.”
“Why don’t I drop you off at the hospital tomorrow? I need to talk to Marissa anyway and I’ll ask about this, and then you can stay as long as you want while I take those two shopping?”
“Ok. Do you want to talk about anything else?” He shakes his head. “Ok, how about we go and stop Zelena from putting on the Wizard of Oz?”
“Yeah.” He gets up. “I hate that movie, the flying monkeys are so stupid.”
“I agree.” She says, thinking of Emma for the hundredth time this evening. She follows him out, turning back only to flick her wrist which restores the dining room to its usual pristine condition.
She texts Henry on and off all evening.
E: I don’t think I can come by, kid. Xx
H: Why? What is it now? X
E: I just think I should leave you guys to it for now, I need to figure out what’s going on with me. What are you doing? Xx
H: Watching movies. Zelena wanted Oz, then Snow White, so instead we’re watching Lilo & Stitch and both of them are in a mood. X
E: That’s a good movie! I wish I was there. Did dinner go ok? Xx
H: Ma, you should be here. Dinner was great. Shan said they were saving room for pie and Zelena levitated them off their seat and said they'd have to have more dinner to keep them on the ground because they were too light! Mom laughed a lot. There’s still pastelon left but no pie if you want to come round. X
Emma’s heart throbs.
“I want to, buddy, I really do.” She says aloud to herself before she puts her phone in her back pocket and knocks on the door of a house on the edge of the woods.
”Sheriff, what a nice surprise.” Archie says when he opens the door.
“Hey, I’m sorry it’s so late. Can I talk to you?”
“It’s never too late for you.”
She smiles to gloss over the awkward feeling that he’s referencing something she doesn’t remember. Once she’s holding a cup of rooibos tea and sitting in his living room she feels less like she needs to explain why she’s there.
“Cold night, huh?” She says, looking at the wood fire.
“Very cold, no cloud cover so it’s a great night for looking at the stars.” She’s both comforted and irritated by his optimism. “So, let’s get down to it, Emma, I’m not going to force small-talk on you. How can I help?”
The irritation she felt evaporates. She’s spoken to therapists before and she knows the only way to do it is with as much honesty as she can bear. She takes a deep breath.
“I don’t remember what happened, and I need to if I’m going to keep all the people that I love and not push them away. I need to know so I know how to behave and...what the fuck happened to Killian? Everyone gets this pained look on their faces when he comes up and I think David is upset with me about something. Mary Margaret looks at me like I’m a wounded bird she wants to rehabilitate. Henry is so mad at me because Regina...I keep hurting her and I don’t know how to stop. I feel better about everything when we’re together. She lets me escape everything and just be, but by being there I trap her into only being half of herself. She stopped using magic around me because I asked her to and I feel awful.” She wipes her eyes.
Archie stands by the window, still looking at the stars and drinking his tea.
“So you want to know so you can stop hurting Regina and why David is upset?”
“But do you want to know for knowing’s sake?” he asks.
“No!” She can’t keep her tears at bay any longer, they pour like torrents. “I don’t want to know, what if it’s worse than what I am already imagining? What if none of my dreams are real and me and Regina didn’t work together? What if I hurt Killian? What if I wouldn’t do anything differently and then people can’t forgive me because I’m not sorry for what I did? I’d do it again, I’d take the Darkness again to protect them.” She means her but she can’t quite say that out loud.
“And knowing the answers to all of these ‘what if’ questions, would that be worse than your ignorance? Worse than Snow’s baby-bird look? You’ve had a lot of choices taken away from you in life, Emma. You’ve made decisions too, like to save Regina, but other big choices you’ve lost to other people. I can tell you what I know, and you can react however you need to, but you have to want to know.”
She wipes her face and looks into the fire. She thinks of the light she makes with Regina in her dreams. She imagines the warmth of the fire is the warmth of their magic that permeates her body in her sleep. She lets herself feel it and believe it one last time before she lets Archie tell her it never happened. The moment with Regina, when they were more each other than they were themselves, that it wasn’t real.
She wipes the last of her tears from her eyes and looks up. “Yep. Hit me.”
Minnie is asleep on her chest. The snuffly noises she makes through her tiny nose are too cute to spoil by taking her upstairs to bed. If she sleeps the whole night through Regina will lie on the sofa, in her work clothes and sleep too so she can keep this moment of peace. She wonders if she should start calling her Liana, if calling her Minnie is erasing her identity. She manages to get her phone from her pocket without waking her. The movie has been turned down low. A couple of the children are asleep on the floor, most Zelena took to bed a while ago. (“I’m sleeping in your bed, by the way.” She said as she carried Shan who was already falling asleep in her arms.) She manages to get her phone out of her pocket. Nothing from Emma. She’s more disappointed than she can stand. She bites her lip for a moment.
R: Do you have somewhere to stay tonight? It’s cold.
She sends it and immediately regrets it. Emma knows it’s cold, she’s out there, probably trying to sleep in her car like an idiot. She checks to see if it has been read but it hasn’t. She watches the screen until it darkens and then she taps it again. She still hasn’t read it. Maybe she’s busy. Maybe she’s asleep on Snow’s sofa. The thought of Emma sleeping on the sofa in her mother’s house boils her blood, but it is slightly preferable to the idea of her sleeping in her car where she would probably freeze to death out of trying not to burden anyone. She can’t lie here and pine over an unread message. She really should send everyone to bed. There’s a wet patch on her chest and she realises Minnie is drooling in her sleep. She smiles. Children are such a unique combination of sweet and disgusting. As she sits up, Minnie instinctively clings to her, little fists bunched tightly around her clothes.
“Ok.” Regina rubs Farah’s back. She stirs and squints at Regina. “Bedtime.”
“What happened in the end?” She asks as she stretches across the floor.
“They all lived happily ever after.” Regina says with a throb in her chest.
Emma and Regina play with magic, what could possibly go wrong?
Thanks for the comments :3
“You’re going shopping with my mom?” Henry asks Jama with a grin.
”Your mom slays,” he replies, “literally and figuratively.”
Henry laughs and Zelena enters the kitchen with a pop and a swirl of green smoke.
“MINNIE THE MINX!” She shouts, “WHERE ARE YOU??”
Henry almost panics until he sees the tiny arms wrapped around Zelena’s neck. She spins around and Minnie’s legs swing out and she giggles.
“Oh my god, I can’t find her anywhere. Must have run off to join the circus.” Zelena says and sits in a dining chair, playfully crushing Minnie behind her. Minnie’s shrieks and giggles are muffled by Zelena’s clothes.
Regina follows in a swathe of purple, still putting her earrings in, dressed in what she considers one of her best outfits. Just because she feels like crap doesn’t mean she has to look it. Jama looks at Henry and snaps his fingers.
“Zelena is Minnie dressed?”
“You know, I’ve not the slightest idea where she’s gone.” She says as a tiny leg kicks out from behind her and Minnie giggles again. “I’m sure she was dressed though, when she ran off. I think she’s joined the circus to be a strongman,” Minnie gurgles, “or a lion tamer, maybe a bearded lady.” Regina laughs and looks at Henry and Jama.
“It’s true, mom.”
“She’s gone.” Jama shrugs.
Regina checks her phone. Emma read her message this morning. At least she knows she’s alive. The doorbell rings and she rushes to answer it.
“Archie.” She tries not to look as disappointed as she feels.
“Madam Mayor, good morning.”
“Come in, there’s coffee, orange juice, every breakfast food you can imagine.”
He laughs. “Sounds great.”
As Regina closes the door she notices Henry looking behind Archie as if expecting someone else.
“Morning Henry.” He says.
“Morning Archie, did..?”
Archie shakes his head. Henry nods and follows him into the kitchen. Regina stands in the hallway resisting the urge to open the door again and look. She satisfies herself with a peek out of the window before heading into the kitchen. Henry is texting again.
“Ellie, will you ask the others to come downstairs?” Regina says and turns to follow Archie.
“ARCHIE’S HERE, COME DOWN!” Ellie bellows before turning to skip after Regina who’s jumped half a foot in the air.
“Shan, not again!”
Shan slides down the banister, springing off at the end and landing on their feet.
“Don’t worry, I’m fine.” They say with all the confidence of a robust seven year old.
“I mean it.” Regina says, giving them the sternest face she can muster before following them into the kitchen.
Seven kids and three adults make the kitchen pretty crowded. Regina doesn’t think it’s ever been crowded before. Certainly she has felt crowded when it has just been her and Snow, but right now it’s crammed with people and that’s never happened in her home before. Still, though it’s busy, it’s incomplete.
“Why don’t we move to the living room?” Archie asks once he has coffee.
They sit around him and Regina thinks again that she doesn’t have enough furniture for all of the people. The kids sit on the floor without a second thought and she is leapt upon by Minnie as soon as she sits down. She conjures a couple of bean bags from upstairs, which are also immediately leapt upon.
Archie wants to talk to the kids about what’s been happening, how they are and what the plan is. It’s good for them. They ask questions that Archie mostly answers. Zelena makes jokes and makes them laugh. Regina gives supportive “rightly so” comments when she feels it necessary.
When Archie is satisfied that the kids have all the answers they need, that they are happy, and that Zelena has only been joking about turning Ellie’s entire head into a megaphone, everybody starts to pile out and get ready for their Saturday activities.
Regina checks the kitchen for people and sees Henry pouring coffee into a flask.
“Since when do you drink coffee?” She asks.
His face is so guilty she knows who it is for immediately. He doesn’t speak, just puts the flask in his backpack with a tupperware full of breakfast food, and an apple.
“I don’t want you wandering around in the cold.” She says.
“I know where I’m going.” He says, walking up to her. She thinks he’s waiting to see if she stops him but she doesn’t. She opens her mouth to speak but he interrupts her. “I’m not telling you.” He says and she closes her mouth again with a look of hurt. For a moment they just stand there. She’s desperate to go with him either so she can shout at Emma or something else.
“It’s just…” She starts and he looks like he’s not buying whatever her excuse is. “That flask is enchanted. So. Be careful with it.”
“Huh.” Henry says. “That’s why it’s so good.” Regina shrugs. “Is there anything in our house that isn’t run by magic?”
She thinks for a moment but she only ends up thinking of Emma. Henry kisses her cheek as he passes her to leave.
“I’ll text you.”
“Well this is predictable.” Henry says, setting his bag down beside Emma at the rebuilt ‘castle’.
“Hey.” Emma replies, looking his way but not making eye contact.
“I brought you some breakfast.” He says
“I don’t really feel like eating. Thanks though.” She says with a smile that quickly fades.
“So did you learn what you wanted to learn?”
She thinks about telling him she never wanted to learn any of it, but that’s not exactly fair.
“I got what I needed, I guess.” Henry opens the tupperware and starts on one of Regina’s pastries. “I know factual information but it feels like I wasn’t there. It’s all second hand, I can’t judge for myself what happened, and no one can really give an objective view because different things matter to different people.” Henry watches her, munching away and waiting for her to continue. “I don’t have any more control than I did before.”
“Well yeah.” Henry says with a mouthful. “You can’t control the past, you only get to decide what comes after it.”
Emma smiles at him. He’s a writer alright. She sighs and looks out at the sea.”How’s everyone doing at the madhouse?”
“It’s ok. Zelena’s having a great time. Everyone seems pretty good.”
He waits and she knows that if she wants to know how Regina is doing she’s going to have to ask specifically or see her in person. She doesn’t think she can do either.
“Are you coming tonight?”
“Why would I come tonight? I thought they were getting ready to go home?” Henry shrugs and she wonders what developments she’s missed out on while she’s taken some time for herself. For a sleepy town in the middle of nowhere, a lot sure happens in a couple of hours. Surely Archie would have told her about any new developments. Or Regina. But she can’t talk to Regina now, not after what she said. “You bring any coffee?”
He pours her some and it fills her up with far more than warmth. She hums and lets the first-sip feeling envelop her. It feels like reassurance in a cup.
“Wow, who made the coffee this morning?”
“Did she put something in it? It tastes amazing.”
“Uh.” Henry smiles and shrugs again.
She thinks it’s like cinnamon but not quite. It’s warming and there’s spice. Maybe something fragrant and a pinch of chilli. It’s something anyway, and she savours each sip. She feels it all the way down to her toes. They sit and look at the sea together. She thinks Henry might press her for what her next plan is or what she’s going to do about things with Regina, but he doesn’t and she’s grateful. After a while she even relaxes enough to help herself to some breakfast. It’s only when she starts eating that she realises her last meal was around 24 hours ago. She eats all of it, apple turnovers, muffins, some spicy, savoury egg thing, the apple and the rest of the coffee.
“Where are you staying tonight?” Henry asks, but she knows it’s not nagging, it’s genuine concern.
“I might check in with uh…” she goes back and forth with ‘mom and dad’ and ‘Mary Margaret and David’ and she’s less comfortable than ever with them now her shield of ignorance is gone. “At the loft. See if my bed is free yet.”
“Ok. You know you’re always welcome with me and mom. You don’t even have to call first.”
“Does anyone call first?” Emma asks, as multiple instances of Snow just showing up and Regina’s eternal chagrin come to mind.
“Not really, but you’re the only one she doesn’t get mad at for it.” He grins and she can’t help smile back.
She wonders if she can go back. Regina would help her figure it out, but what right does she have to go to Regina again? Help again. Fix this again. Everyone calls Emma the saviour but it’s so stupid. Regina is the saviour of Storybrooke, anyone who can’t see that is kidding themselves.
She bites the inside of her lip and tries to play out scenarios in her mind that involve her going around. Regina could be mad, or upset, or cold. She has the right to be all of them. She would still help but at what cost to herself? She imagines Regina opening the door and being happy to see her. Looking at her like she wants to give her a hug but won’t, which is almost as good. She imagines her singing goodnight to Minnie in Spanish, pouring them drinks when everyone is in bed, talking in hushed voices about what happened, what it means, how to get back to normal. She imagines glancing at the clock at 2am, guilty smiles, quiet goodnights in the hallway, and the ache in her chest watching Regina climb the stairs to bed.
She stands up quickly and draws a sharp breath.
“You ok?” Henry asks, startled.
“Yep. Just gotta head off and check out what’s happening at the loft, make some other arrangements if they still have people staying.”
“It’s not fair they gave your bed away.” Henry says
“I can take care of myself.” Emma says and reaches up to ruffle his hair. She never used to have to reach up.
“You shouldn’t have to, they should be your parents first before they’re at the service of the town.” It’s Regina talking with Henry’s voice. She smiles to show she appreciates it. “Me and Jama have been taking turns in the camp bed, it’s fun.” He says as they walk across the parking lot.
“And who should I be taking turns with?” Emma asks out of interest. Henry looks at her like she has 3 heads. “What?” she stops walking.
“Ma, I love you, but you’re an idiot.” He turns and carries on walking. “You should come by.” He shouts over his shoulder as she stands by her car and watches him.
“You need a lift?” She shouts back. He shakes his head and waves.
Regina jumps when the front door slams closed. She absolutely was not asleep, merely resting.
“You were gone a long time.” She says with a slightly croaky voice, which she clears discreetly.
“How was your day?” He asks and drops into the sofa next to her. “The house is quiet.”
“Everyone just left, Jama said he would text you. Marissa isn’t quite well enough to leave the hospital tonight, so a few people are taking the kids out for pizza and a movie. Archie, Zelena, Snow...some of the families too, I suppose they all miss being neighbours.” She rubs her forehead gently to relieve some pressure. It doesn’t really work.
“Oh yeah.” Henry checks his phone. “I think I’d rather stay home.”
Regina smiles at him and lets her head rest back on the sofa cushions. She won’t ask him, she just hopes he’s going to tell her.
“The coffee was fine.”
“It was? That’s a surprise.”
“Yeah, she loved it, she thought there was something special about it this time.” Regina can’t help her smile. It’s magic, she knows it is, it’s her magic. “God, you guys are both so stupid.” Henry says, getting up again.
“Excuse me? Have you forgotten which mother you’re speaking to?” He looks deflated and she backs off. “Why don’t you change, I’ll make us some food and we can talk?”
It’s just leftovers, but somehow it tastes even better than it did the night before. She waits until he’s almost done to ask the real questions.
“How have you found all of this?”
“It’s been fun, having other kids around, but I won’t mind it when they go home. Will they get to go home?”
“There’s a meeting on Monday, providing Marissa is well enough to attend. I can rebuild, Zelena will help...it would just be so much easier with Emma as well.”
“That’s it!” Henry says with more energy than she has left in her. “We need Emma to help rebuild, she needs to feel like a good person again, you guys need an excuse to talk-”
“-and she probably doesn’t have anywhere to stay tonight.”
“Earlier Snow said it wasn’t a problem.” Regina frowns.
“Well, it isn’t for her, is it?” Henry says with a little bit of Jama’s snap that must be rubbing off on him. Regina feels like she should scold him for speaking about his grandmother that way, but instead she gets up from her chair and pulls him into a hug. He stays seated (there’s still pastelon on the table, he’s not done). She kisses the top of his head and starts to clear the table.
“Are you going to call her?”
“Mom! She doesn’t have anywhere to stay!”
“Henry, I know you want the best for her, the best for both of us, but sometimes these things can’t be forced.” She sits back down at the table and waits for his questions.
“When Emma was...when she...and you...I thought one of you was going to die.” Henry says, turning his napkin over in his hands. Tears spring to her eyes immediately at the thought of him being scared to lose one of them. “When it was us versus The Dark Ones we all knew it was going to come down to Emma. When Grandma got hurt and you were ready to tear Nimue to shreds, everything seemed to stop and then it all made sense.” She waits for the thing that makes sense because right now, none of it seems to. “It was always going to come down to you and Emma. It always will, mom.”
She thinks for a moment. It does always seem to be that way. Her whole world revolves around Henry, it makes sense that Emma’s does too, that’s probably why it comes down to them, because someone always seems to be after one of them. But she remembers that light that turned the air as thick as water. She remembers her hand in Emma’s chest, around her heart, willing her to come back to them. She remembers Emma’s hand on her wrist, holding her there. She remembers the way Emma described it in her office, when their magic started to flow between them and Regina was more Emma than she was herself. At the time she couldn’t grasp Emma’s words but after thinking about them all night, she thinks they’re right. She knows that magic like that only happens for her when she is in love, and she can’t keep kidding herself that she’s not in love with Emma. But Emma knows what happened between them, and she ran away. She knows Emma doesn’t love her back now but she still can’t let her sleep in her car tonight.
She remembers the feeling, like nothing she has felt before. She remembers screaming, but it wasn’t theirs. She remembers her other arm around Emma’s waist as their foreheads pressed together and her magic searching every inch of Emma’s body to scour the darkness away. And then she remembers silence, cold, being pulled away from Emma, being in hospital and Henry’s hand in hers.
Henry sits with her while she thinks about how to get Emma to come by without freaking her about her feelings. Emma is disgusted by her magic now after all, why wouldn’t she be disgusted by her feelings as well? But then she did drink the coffee...
“What if I text her?” Henry asks
She takes a breath and comes back to the real world, chin resting in her palm. “What would you say?”
“Something like ‘Mom needs to talk to you tonight’.” Regina cringes. “Or ‘can you come over tonight?’ Or ‘moms too scared to ask you to come over herself’.”
The doorbell saves him from a verbal smack around the head. She crosses the hallway mumbling to herself that she’s not scared of anything. She opens the door, ready to be overrun by children again, but it’s not them.
“Hey.” Regina says after a second to close her mouth and rally. She’s not scared of anything, she reminds herself again, especially not Emma Swan.
“...can I come in?”
“Yes! Of course.”
Emma stands in the hallway with her. She looks even less happy than when she hadn’t known anything. So that’s settled, she knows what happened between them now, and she doesn’t feel the same way Regina does about it.
“I saw Archie last night. He filled me in on a few things.” Regina nods and clasps her hands in front of her. “He said all they know about what happened between us is that we made some really bright light and no one could see us, and then when it stopped we were lying on the ground. Together.”
Clamped around each other, Regina thinks, like yin and yang that make no sense apart. She nods confirmation.
“So, I still don’t know if what I dream about is real. Was real.”
Regina’s heart aches. “And you want some answers.”
Emma nods after a moment.
“Hey moms, I’m going to bed.” Henry appears and disappears again just as suddenly. He masks his smugness well but his eyes linger on Regina’s just a split second long enough to get his point across.
“Do you want a drink?” Regina asks, hoping she does, she could use some Dutch courage.
“Do you have any rooibos tea? I had some at Archie’s, I think it helped me sleep.”
“Sure.” Regina smiles thinking longingly about the whiskey in her study which is older than Henry.
“I’m glad you came.” Regina says. “I need to tell you something.” Emma, despite leaning back on the kitchen counter, stiffens. “The coffee Henry took for you this morning, he didn’t know but the flask was enchanted. I thought you should know since you’ve been so clear about your feelings about magic.”
Emma frowns. “I couldn’t tell. It was delicious.”
Regina’s stomach flutters and she ignores it. Delicious is a word she’ll think about later, when she doesn’t have to be ashamed about the way it makes her feel.
“It was the same as always, only Henry chose that flask, imbued with my magic to make it actually work. Can’t find a decent one anywhere.” She says with a throwaway smile, trying to lighten the mood a little.
Emma continues to frown at her so she washes the few dishes from her dinner with Henry so she has something to do with her hands. Emma picks up a towel to dry them, and puts it down again. Regina keeps washing until everything is done, avoiding looking at Emma because she can’t quite read her. She almost jumps when she feels Emma’s magic. She turns to see that the dishes she has just washed are gone. Emma swallows and lowers her hand.
“How do you feel?” Regina asks quietly. She looks a little shaken.
“I’m ok.” She says and looks away. Regina continues watching. “Tea?”
They sit in the study and Emma avoids her eyes.
“So your dreams. Do you want to tell me what you dream and I’ll tell you if it’s real?” Emma looks like a deer in headlights. That’s a no then. “Or do you want to see if you can handle any more magic?”
Emma looks a little less worried about that, but not much. Regina puts her cup down and holds her palm out. “Do you want to put your tea down just in case?” she asks. Emma does as she’s told and sits with a knee up on the sofa, facing Regina.
Regina closes her eyes. She could summon something. She has flowers upstairs so she takes one and it appears in her hand. She passes it to Emma who takes it slowly. A white tulip. Emma turns it, admiring the petals which start to turn purple under her gaze, leaving the bright colour with white striations down them. Regina smiles. “And?”
“It’s ok.” Emma says, passing the flower back to her. Their fingers brush and it feels warm and good. For a moment Regina’s perception of the world shrinks to their hands. Emma could have chosen to hold the flower so that they don’t touch, couldn’t she? What does it mean that she didn’t? Emma’s hand withdraws and she sends the flower back to her vase upstairs, the purple one in the centre.
She tries something else, an orb of magical energy. It floats over her palm, purple and gold, turning lazily, shimmering in the low lamp light. Emma watches it for a moment before placing her own hand above it. A white and gold ring appears around it like the rings of Saturn, spinning and not touching. Regina feels the weight of it in her chest first, then her whole body. Their magic, close, but not touching. Before she realises what’s happening, Emma’s hand presses down. She feels the pressure on the orb. She could let go of it, let it disappear. She could relinquish control of it to Emma. The orb becomes more of an oval while she deliberates. She has never played with magic like this with anyone else. She wonders what would happen if she opens control to Emma without completely letting it go. Before she can make a decision Emma’s circling ring opens to engulf the orb. Regina gasps and feels the loss of her connection. The orb is now encased in white and gold that looks as solid as enamel, and as soft as a wisp of smoke. She watches it spin and grow smaller and Emma’s palm get closer and closer to her own. The orb is obscured completely by Emma’s hand. She can feel the warmth of her skin before they touch. It gets warmer and warmer until she realises beneath Emma’s hand is glowing. She glances up at Emma. She seems closer than before and gives her an almost imperceptible nod. Regina opens her magic again and before she knows what she’s doing Emma’s magic surges into her. Everything disappears as she closes her eyes hard but all she can see is brightness. It disappears in a moment and she can feel that she has moved. Her other hand loosens its grip on the sofa cushions beneath her. Her eyes open to an upside down study and she realises her head is back. She looks up quickly and sees Emma with her hand clamped over her mouth, eyes wide. She thinks she might have made a noise. Now that she thinks, she’s pretty sure something guttural and unabashed came out of her mouth.
She feels as frozen as Emma looks. Her heart feels like it’s beating too fast and suddenly the house erupts in noise again as six children and her sister burst into the hallway.
“Uh, uh.” Emma says, looking behind herself to check that the study door is closed. “I’m sorry!” She whispers urgently. Before Regina can say anything Emma releases her grip on Regina’s hand and disappears in a cloud of white smoke.
Regina lets the tension out of her body and collapses back on the sofa. Remnants of Emma’s magic still tingle in her body and she tries to hold onto them at the tips of her fingers, up her spine, other places.
“Regina?” Zelena opens the door and sees her curled up on the sofa. Regina doesn’t move and feels Zelena sit by her feet. “Are you alright?” She asks with a tone that makes it clear she doesn’t care either way.
Regina nods, not sure she wants to use her voice again after what just happened. She knows Zelena can sense the print of Emma’s magic. Zelena pats her hip and gets up again. A moment later something else gets up on the sofa. Minnie climbs into the space her arms had been occupying and aligns her face with Regina’s. Regina just watches. Minnie stares frankly back and touches Regina’s nose with hers. Her nose is so small, her cheeks so round, her skin so soft. She has so much power and potential, she has no idea. Regina smiles and tears spill out of her eyes. She wraps her arms around the little girl and lets her heart ache.
Thank god for Zelena, that's all I'm saying.
“Zelena I don’t think a hard hat is necessary given that we’re outside and there’s nothing above us to fall on us.”
“You don’t know, sistermine. Imagine me having to explain to little Minnie how her new new mummy died in a tragic accident-”
Regina snatches the hard hat and scowls at her sister to mask the lump in her throat. Zelena smirks. They stand at the site where the fire had been. Their plans are agreed and although Zelena has artistic license, Regina has the final say. They’re going to recreate homes with nothing but their own magic.
They work until lunch time when Zelena decides enough is enough.
“I know the villagers think we’re making great progress but really? We haven’t even finished one house.” Zelena says as they trudge to the car.
“It makes sense to do all of the foundations first.” Regina says wearily. She sits in the driver seat but she’s too tired for it.
“For god's sake.” Zelena says before transporting them both to Granny’s.
“Whatever you’re having it’s on the house.” Ruby smiles and winks at Zelena.
Regina doesn’t have the energy to find out what that’s about. She drops into an empty booth and leans her head back.
“So,” Ruby asks when she makes it to their table, “what can I get you two?”
“A pot of tea, a glass of apple juice and water for the table, and to eat...Regina will have the special with fries if you have that Cajun dip, onion rings if you don’t.”
“We do, I know you like it so we always have some in.” She says and Regina smiles back at her and closes her eyes again.
“And I'll have whatever you think is the best thing on the menu.” Zelena smiles. Regina hears the flop of laminated menus being passed back to Ruby. “Sistermine you’re either horribly out of shape or there’s something horribly wrong. I don’t think it’s the first one.” Zelena says, her voice getting softer with empathy.
“I don’t have the energy for any of this.” Regina says. After a pause she continues, “I’m tired all the time, I’m exhausted. I’m tired of thinking about it all the time, I’m tired of my whole day revolving around it. I’m just...tired.”
She feels Zelena’s hand rest on top of her own. She keeps her eyes closed until the food arrives, when they both eat like six children with apple pie.
They walk home from the diner after concluding the air would help their heads and the movement would help them digest the tonne of food they just ate.
“Do you know the term to ‘eat your feelings’?” Zelena asks rhetorically, “I never really understood it until now.”
Regina sighs. “I did something-“ she shakes her head almost to get rid of the memory “-embarrassing.”
“Ooh!” Zelena claps, “do tell.”
“I...I was trying to help Emma use magic again. We were just making shapes.” Zelena guffaws. “Ok forget it, I don’t know why I wanted to share, you can’t be serious.”
“Oh come on, tell me, you’ll feel better.”
Regina sighs. “Emma doesn’t feel the way that I feel.”
“What?” Zelena stops walking.
Regina continues. “When I was trying to help it felt like she was asking me to open my magic to her.” Regina turns around to see Zelena hurrying back to her side.
“Oh bloody hell, and you did, didn’t you?”
Regina remembers the feeling, the explosion of Emma everywhere, like the feeling of fingernails gently scratching your scalp, but all over. She lets her breath go.
“It was just for a second. When it stopped she looked horrified and left, and then you got back with the kids.” Regina looks off into the distance.
Zelena has been standing with her hands over her mouth, slightly hunched in anticipation but suddenly drops her hands and straightens up.
“Right, so what happened after that?”
Regina lifts her arms and drops them to her side.
“Regina! Where is she? Have you spoken?”
“No, I don’t think she wants-“
“Oh she does want, she wants whatever was at the end of that sentence, and an awful lot more. Ugh.” Zelena whips her phone out.
“What are you doing?”
“Sheriff,” Zelena starts. Regina pales. She wouldn’t. “Oh aside from being a woman down on the magical rebuilding of homes for the good citizens of this town, tired in my bone marrow and scheduled to do it again every day for the foreseeable future, I’m absolutely marvellous, how are you?”
Regina does her best death stare but Zelena completely ignores it.
“I hate to cut you off, Sheriff, but I’m not Regina. If you want to offload on me I’ll send you a bill, but I’m sure Jiminy Cricket’s hourly rate is much more reasonable. Look, rebuilding is tough work. We really need you.”
Regina doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“I know, which is why I think you should meet Regina tonight at the picnic spot in the forest clearing to practice your magic until you’re back up to fighting strength.”
“What?! No! Zelena!” Regina whispers but Zelena bats her away.
“Of course, she tells me everything.”
Regina closes her eyes and prays to whatever god might be listening that she might be struck by lightning. Or better, Zelena might be.
“Uh…” Zelena suddenly turns to look at her.
“What?” Regina whispers.
“She...uhh...she could use a friend, Emma…Well obviously she has me, but she needs you for some reason.”
Regina waves her hand and Zelena’s phone appears in it. She hangs up and stares at Zelena. Zelena shrugs.
“I can’t believe you.”
“Of course you can.” Zelena sighs. “Meet her at 7.”
Emma’s late. She almost didn’t come. She almost called Regina to make sure it wasn’t a trick, but that seemed insulting somehow. And now she’s late.
By the time she has parked up it’s pretty dark. She walks up the path to the clearing but switches her torch off when she sees there are lights on ahead. She’s nervous. She’s not sure how to stop hearing that noise Regina made, that was deep enough to cover even the embarrassing sigh she let out. She can feel her cheeks burning and she hasn’t even seen her yet. When she does see her, she’s sitting on a picnic table, not unlike how she once sat on a desk in the sheriff station just to remind Emma that she can do whatever she wants.
She half expects Regina to greet her with a ‘Miss Swan’ and a snappy insult about how late she is, but instead she gets a hesitant smile. That’s worse.
“Hey,” Emma says. “Before we do anything I just want to say I’m sorry.”
Regina checks her watch. “You’re actually earlier than I was expecting.”
“I mean, not for being late -which I am sorry for, obviously.” She lets out the breath that seems to be building up in her lungs without release. “I’m sorry for overstepping the other night. I didn’t know my magic would do that to...both of us.”
Regina looks uncomfortable.
“I think,” she begins slowly, “I should have known it would. Magic has a way of forging its own paths but when one already exists it deepens it and every time it gets easier to do whatever you were doing.” Concern flickers in her eyes briefly. “So it makes sense that together our magic would-“
“Yes.” Regina swallows. “You wanted answers and I suppose you got one.”
“That’s what happened when I...when you..?”
“When we forced the darkness out, something like that yes.”
So it happened. It happened before. Their magic carved a groove so deep that the flow of magic between them is almost uncontainable. Like a trickle to a raging river.
“Is it safe? I mean, I couldn’t control it last time.”
“Were you trying?” Regina asks. She’s looking down, wiping something invisible from her blazer.
“Uh, well no. I guess I wasn’t.”
“Nor was I. It should be possible to control. Magic is a tool, controllable like an action, like lifting a glass to your lips but also volatile like emotions can be.”
“Like smashing a glass to make yourself feel better?”
Regina thinks. “Yes, roughly. There’s no reason magic between us can’t be controlled. Do you want to work on your magic, or ours?”
Emma’s distracted by the image of Regina, head thrown back in the sofa cushions, her face before she opened her eyes, the sound Regina made, their hands clasped tight and the dreams she has been having.
“If you want to work on it? I know Zelena somewhat strong-armed you into it.” Regina clears her throat.
“I do, I do want to.” She says.
Regina smiles briefly. “We could certainly use your help rebuilding.”
“Yeah.” Emma says, that wasn’t really what she meant. She wants to get her magic back so she can be normal around her family again. She thinks of Regina’s dishwasher running on magic, on her magic. It’s so domestic and mundane. She wants that.
“So where should we start?”
“Why don’t you see what you feel up to? This is a good place for big magic.” Regina rubs her arms.
Cold. It’s cold, Emma realises, although her cheeks are burning. She lights the fire in the centre of the empty camp. But it goes out.
Regina nods. “Again.”
She does it again, puts more effort in this time. It ignites brighter, bigger than before but goes out again after a couple of seconds. She’s disappointed. What if she let her magic go and now she can’t get it back? Regina’s head tilts to the side.
“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Emma asks.
“What are you thinking?”
“That I fucked it up again. That my magic is fucked and I should have listened to you all along!” Emma sits down with a thud on the picnic bench and covers her eyes with her hand.
“Give me your keys.”
Emma hands them over, sure she’s about to be sent home like a kid leaving a party because she’s having a tantrum.
“It would be a real shame to lose these.” Regina says and Emma looks up in time to see her launch the keys into the dark trees.
“Hey!” Emma reaches out and her magic catches them before they disappear into the bushes. They fly over and land in her hand. “Do you mind?”
Regina smirks. “You have kept your magic after all then.”
‘Smug fucking queen.’ Emma thinks.
”Fire.” Regina tips her head at the cold campfire.
She once said to use anger to light fire, so Emma throws hers at the logs and they light up immediately, in red fire, not the silvery stuff she’d lit before, and this fire burns. It stays burning. Her mood lifts immediately and she laughs. Regina smiles widely at her.
“So, your magic is fine, you just need a reminder of why you care about it.”
“I mean, it’s part of me, so I guess I care about it…”
“Something being part of you is no guarantee you will care about or even like it. Trust me. We need to work on your love of magic again.”
She’s talking about magic but it feels like she’s talking about more than that. Emma nods.
“Ok, so can we start with fun stuff?”
It sounds goofy and suggestive at the same time. Emma designs a game called space tennis where there are multiple balls, all of them have magical properties and instead of being governed by the laws of gravity they hone in like missiles, reacting to different things. Really it’s more like space dodgeball but she’s already named it, and you do get a magical racket. She knocks one of Regina’s purple orbs back but it’s absorbed into her racket, magic shivers up her arms and into her body.
“That’s cheating!” She shouts as she collapses in slow motion, fighting immobilisation with everything she has.
“It doesn’t break any of the rules.” Regina motions to the list of rules hanging in the air, written in magic that doubles as a light source for their game.
She lies still. The cold ground underneath her feels good after playing magic dodgeball with possibly the most competitive woman in the world.
“Emma?” Regina sounds worried. She doesn’t move.
“Emma.” Regina repeats and kneels down. “It wasn’t that strong, you lightweight.”
Emma almost smiles but manages to keep her face straight.
“Emmaaaah.” Regina complains and shakes her shoulder. Emma let’s go of the remnants of Regina’s charm and it shoots into Regina’s open hand.
“Ugh, you’re so predictable!” Regina grinds as her jaw locks and she fights the magic. Before she’s completely incapacitated she lifts a hand and Emma feels magic coil in it before she can see it. She pulls her magic up too and only just in time to meet a blast aimed at her.
She feels it stop and wrestle with Regina’s mid air. It looks wild. White and silver and purple and gold. They become less distinguishable and she looks at Regina in apprehension.
“It’s ok.” Regina says. “Control it.”
“I c-“ She starts.
“You can.” Regina interrupts.
She feels slivers of Regina’s magic make it to her and her throat tightens.
“Focus Emma.” Regina says as the base of her spine starts to tingle.
She looks over and sees Regina struggling to keep her breathing steady.
“Stop trying to catch mine. Stem the flow of yours.” Regina says before her nose wrinkles and she gasps.
“My magic.” Emma says and tries to feel the boundary between them again, it’s hard because she’s so deep in it, it feels like trying to watch water in your hands while drowning. “My magic, my magic.”
Emma’s eyes are closed and she can feel the boundary of her magic again, can feel Regina’s resistance, her strength. She tries to pull back from how deep she must be and meets Regina’s open eyes.
“I can’t.” Emma says, feeling it all the way through her now. It feels like she has too many limbs and all of them are tingling.
“You can!” Regina shouts, “I can feel it.”
That reassures her. If Regina says her strength is there, then it’s there. She pulls back, and as she dominates less of the flow she feels relief in Regina as if she feels it herself. Like fresh air in your lungs after holding your breath. Their hands come closer and closer together as the magic shrinks and shrinks. Her body hums with magic and she realises she’s lying back again. Regina sits beside her, panting with her eyes closed. Their hands are firmly clasped together, Regina’s right and her left.
“Are you ok?” Emma asks quietly.
She has no idea how this feels for Regina. Ok based on previous experiences (/noises), she has some idea but this time wasn’t like that. Regina knew it was happening, she must have been ok with it, right? She said it was ok.
“You did it.” Regina smiles, eyes still closed.
“Regina, what does it feel like for you?”
Her eyes snap open and Emma thinks this is the first time she’s ever seen Regina unsure. She stares into her face and thinks if it feels anything like it does for her they’re much, much closer than “friendship”. But maybe it doesn’t feel like that because she’s just about ready to accept she’s in love with Regina, so maybe her magic feels like ecstasy with no comedown, but to Regina it might be something completely different.
Regina looks at their clasped hands and Emma does too. She lets go and sits back. Emma notices the sheen of sweat on her chest, maybe from the game or maybe from the magic. She runs her fingers through her hair and takes a deep breath.
“It feels like a touch that feels so good it burns. Or like hot sun on cold skin that goes deep into you. But all over, like climbing into a hot bath, just...consumed.”
Eloquent. She’s eloquent. Emma sits up on her elbows and looks back at her. For Emma it feels like the build up on a rollercoaster that never ends. Like waves of tingling warmth that fill her up. Like intimacy beyond anything she has ever felt. Is that what Regina is describing?
“Well, I’ve done this twice now, is it different from other times you’ve done it?” Emma asks, unsure if she’s talking about magic or something else.
“Three times.” Regina says.
“Oh yeah.” Emma rubs the back of her neck and Regina avoids her eyes.
“Which you don’t remember.”
“I’m really sorry.” Emma says. “I think I understand it a bit better. This was how we made the light?”
“Yes.” Regina says, still not looking.
Emma sits up.
“And they found us lying on the floor.”
“So how did I get from murderous Dark One to making sparkly magic with you?”
“I held your heart.” Regina says as if it’s been dying to get out of her for some time.
“What?” Emma’s hands fly to her chest even though she knows it’s still in there.
“I had my hand around your heart and I willed you to force the Darkness out.”
“I mean, I willed it out myself and it wouldn’t go, how did you do it?”
It might just be the low light reflecting but when Regina’s mouth opens and closes, her eyes seem rounder and shinier than ever.
Regina’s phone starts to ring from what seems like miles away. She waves her hand and it appears next to her.
“Oh my god, some of the kids are upset about the fire in the living room being lit.” Zelena says.
“What?..we’ve done that before, Archie said-“ Regina says
“Yes well please keep in mind he was a cricket for a significant portion of his life. They’re crying, Regina. Can you come home?“
“I’ll be right there.” She hangs up and sighs more forcefully than she means to. “Zelena lit the fireplace and some of the children are upset. I have to go.”
“Of course!” Emma sits up and Regina’s urge to kiss the sleeping(ish) princess finally releases her. “Can I come?”
“Yes.” Regina says and poofs them both to her house without hesitation.
The crying is immediate. She opens the kitchen door to see Zelena with her arms around Shan while some of the kids comfort each other. Minnie reaches for Regina as soon as she enters the room and Farah lets her take her.
“Oh poor baby.” Regina says, kissing her head and holding her tight. “What happened?”
Zelena looks furious and Regina knows it’s at herself.
“I think the fire popped and scared some of us.” Jama says from the table.
“Is it out?” Regina asks.
“Yes obviously.” Zelena snaps.
“Ok.” Regina says, at a loss for what to do next.
“Hey,” Emma says from behind her. For a moment Regina had forgotten she was there but she’s glad she is. “Me and Regina just invented this game called space tennis, who wants to play?”
Peter looks up eagerly but seems hesitant still.
“It might be too dangerous.” Regina says and approximately all of the children perk their ears up. “It involves magic flying around and throwing things at each other-“
“I’m in.” Jama says.
“Me too.” Farah agrees.
Emma leads all but Minnie out into the back yard and in no time there’s screaming and running and the flashing lights of magic bouncing off kids.
“Sorry if I interrupted something important.” Zelena says.
Regina keeps her eyes on Emma, even when she turns to look at her. Emma smiles but she doesn’t quite smile back. Just looking seems more honest.
“We were only talking.” Regina says and her heart feels heavy in her chest.
“Yes but that’s exactly what you need isn’t it? One of you needs to spill the beans to the other.”
“It’s not like that.” Regina says and rubs Minnie’s back. She’s stopped crying but she thinks she’s still awake.
“Regina come on, Emma loves you as much as you love her.” Regina’s stomach turns over hearing someone say it out loud.
“I don’t know.” Regina says. “She needs to be taken care of. What if that’s all it is she gets from me? What if she doesn’t want...what I want?”
“She takes care of you too. She makes you laugh when you need it, she helps at every chance you give her. She’s just as scared of this as you are.”
“How do you know all of this?”
“Because I’m more observant than both of you idiots put together. Henry and I have discussed this at length. I can’t stay tonight by the way. Oh and I sourced a cot for this one and put it in with Farah.”
“That’s very suspect timing.”
“Pure coincidence, Scouts honour.” Zelena holds up 3 fingers.
“You weren’t a Scout.”
“Well I could have been if I’d grown up in this realm.” Zelena sniffs. “Some of the kids are into the idea. Could be a great programme while Marissa’s on the mend.”
“That’s a great idea.” Regina says.
Zelena takes a snoring Minnie from her and calls the kids inside. They head up for bed and showers and Emma follows after making sure all the magic is gone from the garden.
“That was fun.” Emma smiles.
“Thank you for that, I didn’t know what to do.”
“You would have done something.” Emma says and smiles.
This is it. It has to be it.
“Do you still want to know what it feels like when it’s my magic in control?” Regina asks.
“Yeah.” Emma says, face becoming more serious again.
Regina’s completely out of words so she takes Emma’s hand and feels a flutter in her chest when Emma holds on and follows. She closes the door of the study behind Emma and turns to her. Amusement dances in Emma’s eyes until Regina reaches for her face, holds her gently and kisses her. Emma responds after a moment, kissing her back and Regina’s hands fall away from her face to her hips. Her hands are on Emma’s hips. She can’t quite believe this is happening. She doesn’t know where in the study she is but suddenly she’s against a wall. Emma pulls back a little.
“This is what it feels like?” She says breathlessly.
“Almost.” Regina replies.
Regina kisses her again and puts magic in it. She’s in every part of Emma in seconds, every breath is hers, every rush, every flutter. She pulls back and Emma drops her head to Regina’s shoulder.
“Oh my god.” Emma pants.
“Mmhm” Regina smiles. Her hands move without prompting to rub circles on Emma’s back.
“No wonder you beat the Darkness.” Emma says.
“We beat it, Emma.”
“I don’t know about that.” Emma stands straight again and she’s taller by just enough for Regina to need to lift her chin. Regina sighs in frustration and wonders how honest she can be with Emma now, and what she should keep to bring up at another time. A better time when they hadn’t just shared their first kiss and have an empty bedroom upstairs.
“What?” Emma asks, stepping back a little.
“I just wish you could accept credit for your own achievements.”
“Credit? For being the Dark One?”
“For winning against the Darkness!”
“You sound like my mom.” Emma says.
Regina is revolted but she can’t help answering. “Maybe that’s because we’re right.”
“I never thought I’d hear you agree with her.” She sounds like a teenager.
“I never thought you’d be so petulant.”
“Petulant?” Emma turns and heads for the door. “Sure, I was a monster with no control and trying to recover from that is petulant.”
“No, getting angry at people trying to help you because moving on is harder work and less satisfying than just being a shithead to anyone who reaches out. Believe me, I know!”
“But fine, pretend you’re in the right here. Run like you always do.” Emma doesn’t move. “Isn’t that what you’re doing? Running before you can be thrown out? This isn’t a foster home, I am not your mother and you are not a child who needs to be coddled, certainly not by me.”
“Fuck you.” Is all Emma says before she disappears.
Regina doesn’t move. She closes her eyes and breathes out slowly. There’s a knock on the door and before she can answer Zelena steps in.
“Not that I was eavesdropping, but I couldn’t help but hear that Emma isn’t staying.”
“So. Do you want me to stay?”
Regina opens her eyes and sees Zelena closer than she expected.
“I’m so angry at her.” Regina whispers.
“Why?” Regina asks, distracted from her own rage for a moment.
“For making my sister cry.”
Regina wipes her face. “Well. I probably could have done that without saying I wasn’t her mother.”
“I mean, a little clarification never hurt anyone. Although after the sound she made I doubt she’s mistaken about that.” Regina feels a glow of pride. “I think I closed Henry’s door in time that he didn’t hear it. Whatever you were doing to her it doesn’t need to be burned into his memory as well as mine.”
“It was just a kiss.” Regina says.
“But where though?” Regina looks back and doesn’t answer. Zelena’s smirk fades a little. “Really?”
She can still feel the way her magic courses through her, like last time, but this time it wasn’t searching for darkness to scour away, it was filling her up with the intoxicating colour and lightness.
“Oh, love.” Zelena says and wraps her arms around her. It might be the first hug Zelena has instigated. “I’ve never heard of it being that strong unless it’s True-“
“Regina.” Zelena hugs her harder. “She’ll figure it out. She’s stupid, but she’s not THAT stupid.”
Regina smiles sadly and lets her call Emma names. It’s not as if she’s ever going to know.
“Well that’s rude.”
They let go and turn to see Emma in the doorway.
“So you ran and now you’re back.” Zelena rolls her eyes. “Can’t handle that my sister might be right about you?”
“This really isn’t any of your business Zelena.” Emma says.
“It is my business when your actions impact everyone around you, idiot. Henry says you’re Harry and he’s right. Book 5 at best.”
“Zelena.” Regina warns, though she can’t help but enjoy the idea of Zelena and Henry talking about them, and she may agree that Emma has been Book 5 Harry for a while now.
“I’m going. To the kitchen, just to be clear.” Zelena nudges Emma as she passes.
“You were a dick.” Emma says once the door is closed again.
“You were a dick!” Regina replies, immediately incensed then pulls back and regroups. “You know, the sound carries from here, if we’re going to shout obscenities we should do it somewhere quieter. She waves her hand and they appear in her bedroom.
“How is this quieter? We’re closer to the kids than before.”
Emma rolls her eyes. “I did not need to know that.”
“I don’t want to think about it.” Emma turns away from her.
“I don’t like the idea of you and Hook any better..” She wrinkles her nose. “Or Neil, or Graham. But Hook.” She grimaces.
“Don’t fucking judge me, especially when you had Robin.”
“I’m not judging you I just...I hate him.”
“I thought you didn’t hate people any more.”
“I do my best but with him,” she holds her hands up, “unreservedly.”
“Even though he’s dead?”
“I don’t want to make you feel bad about that.”
“Only that? You pretty much called me a sad foster child earlier.”
“I did. I was frustrated because I knew I couldn’t tell you what I really wanted to say without you getting upset at me and probably running. I’m sorry.”
“So you just said something else super hurtful and I got upset and ran anyway. What we’re you trying not to say?”
“I blame Hook for the loss of your confidence.”
The room is quiet.
“If that’s an excuse, Emma, I don’t want to hear it.”
Emma purses her lips.
“You’re fierce and loyal and strong, you’re thoughtful and sweet and kind and he tried to trample it all. He wanted you for a trophy because you’re beautiful. He wanted what he saw and he tried to rip the rest away from you because it challenged everything about him. You deserved so much better and I hate that he robbed you of so much. And. I should have done something. But I didn’t know what.”
Emma isn't looking at her, she’s looking at the floor.
“I’m sorry I didn’t do anything.” Regina says.
“You did.” Emma says quietly. “You were always trying to get to that version of me, always making him small so he didn’t always seem like this dominating force. You were...I don’t know, it sounds stupid.”
Regina waits because whatever it is it can’t be stupid. She was something to Emma. Emma shrugs and finally looks at her.
“A light in the dark.”
She wants to go to Emma and wrap her up and hold her, but she can’t this time. She can’t be Emma’s light in the dark and then the one who makes moves on her. That voice in the back of her head tells her she’s taking advantage, that she has all the power and that Emma would do anything for her.
“You look lost.” Emma says.
Emma laughs. “You’re amazing.”
She doesn’t understand. “I’m sorry for what I said earlier.” Regina says.
“Well, I’m well aware that you’re not my mother, thank god.” Emma laughs again.
Regina feels the situation lightening up with Emma’s smiles and easiness.
“This place is fucked up but we don’t need to get Ancient Greece levels of fucked up, you know?” Regina smiles. “Yes! I’m winning, what do we need, more historical references?” Her smile grows. “We’re nearly there! I bet I could make you laugh with another round of space tennis.”
“Don’t you dare, you’ll break something!”
Emma leans in and kisses her while they’re both smiling. Regina’s phone buzzes in her pocket.
“Madam mayor, is that an appointment reminder or are you just happy to see me?” Emma teases.
She ignores her apart from the smile she can’t help, and checks the phone.
Z: I assume that since I can’t hear you shouting or Emma moaning, your room is soundproofed (clever girl). Can you just let me know if you need me to stay tonight?
Regina opens her bedroom door and peeks over the bannister to see Zelena standing in the hallway.
“Thank you for offering to stay. I’ve got it covered.”
Zelena smirks. “Don’t be up too late, we’re building tomorrow,” and disappears.
“I can sleep in the study again.” Emma says.
“You can if you want, or you’re welcome here. In all honesty I’m too tired for anything but sleep tonight.” Regina grimaces.
“Oh my god.” Emma smiles. “Me too, I’ve been sleeping so badly. Can we just sleep?”
“Ugh, yes please.” Regina says before she flicks her wrist to lock the front door and follow Emma back to her bedroom.
Regina heads to the bathroom to start her skincare routine. The bedroom is pretty dark, she doesn’t think Emma can see the faint blush on her cheeks. “If you need anything-“
“I’ll ask.” Emma nods.
“Ok.” Regina says and closes the door behind her. She hears Emma coming in and out of the bedroom, probably using Henry’s bathroom to brush her teeth.
When she comes out Emma is already in bed, on the right side. She gets in quietly, assuming she’s asleep but Emma whispers “can I put my arm around you?”
She turns onto her side to face her. Her eyes are half closed and she smiles briefly. Regina touches her cheek for a moment before placing a kiss gently on her lips. Emma breathes in and Regina wants to make more of it, but they’re both so tired. She pulls away, then kisses her again and then just one more time.
“Goodnight Emma.” She says before she turns onto her other side and shuffles backwards. Emma puts an arm around her waist and pulls her close. It feels warmer and better than she ever expected. So much so she lets out a small grumbling noise of appreciation. Emma kisses her just below her ear. It tickles and it’s soft and it makes her stomach clench.
“Goodnight Regina.” Emma mumbles into her hair and she’s gone. Completely fucking absolutely gone on this girl. The room is dark and the house is quiet but her stomach starts doing somersaults and she can’t stop gently thumbing circles on Emma’s arm, breathing deeply to catch the smell of her, listening hard to her breathing into her pillows.
She’s never going to get to sleep, and she doesn’t want to. It takes all of her willpower not to turn around and watch Emma sleep. Emma’s breathing changes to deep and slow. Her arm lies more heavily on her. Regina is so deep in a state of comfort and bliss she doesn’t notice when she finally falls asleep.
In which the day is saved.
Last chapter! Thanks for all of your comments, I love them! Please let me know what you think in the end ☺️
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Regina wakes up Emma is not in bed. She’s not in the bathroom. She could be in Henry’s bathroom, but why would she if Regina’s wasn’t occupied? Regina brushes her teeth furiously, adamant that she has the self control to at least finish getting ready before she poofs downstairs and hopes Emma is there. Even if she’s not it will probably still be fine, she’s sure, as she leaps into the shower.
When she does get downstairs Emma isn’t in the kitchen. Her heart sinks. No messages. No note.
She realises Henry is talking to her and spins around to see Emma enter the room.
“Sorry, darling, what- hi. Emma.”
“Hey!” Emma smiles.
Henry looks from one to the other. “Wow ok. I was saying Emma’s gonna make breakfast.”
“Great, great, that’s great.” Regina says, glancing at him and smiling at Emma.
Emma’s still grinning like a maniac but it’s endearing. “As long as you don’t mind?”
“No, no. Be my guest.” She says, wiping clear the slate of the morning's suspected abandonment.
Emma holds eye contact for what might be an unusual amount of time before she breaks away. Regina breathes out.
“Sit down, I made coffee.”
“Good morning Henry” Regina says and holds his cheek in her palm for a moment.
“How are you doing?”
“Very well.” She almost sighs. “We’re rebuilding today if you’d like to come?”
“No thanks. Jama is doing a makeover on me.” Regina raises her eyebrows. “Apparently as a Mills I’m letting the side down because ‘you slay’”
Regina tilts her head and snaps her fingers as Emma puts her coffee cup down on the table. Regina slides a coaster underneath it.
“Where is Jama? It’s quiet here this morning.”
“Everyone was tired I think. Shan and Peter are playing upside down Xbox.” Regina waits for an explanation. “It’s Xbox but you play it upside down.”
Regina hums as if that makes complete sense and takes her first sip of coffee. It’s quiet in the house. Her son checks his phone at the table while his other mother, the woman she has been in love with for longer than she cares to admit, makes them breakfast. It might be perfect. She savours it desperately in the manner of someone who has lost a lot of happiness and isn’t quite ready to trust that it is back yet.
Henry gets up and leaves the room without explanation, fully absorbed in his phone. A moment later Emma slides into his spot with a troubled look on her face. Regina’s stomach drops.
Emma’s eyes are down. She looks tired. Regina starts to feel cold, and like her eyesight has sharpened. Emma swallows and looks up, taking a deep breath as she prepares to break Regina’s heart, again.
“When I held the dagger and...and…” Emma rolls her eyes at herself.
“Saved me from becoming the Dark One?” Regina tries.
“Yeah.” Emma says, still, after all this time struggling to label her efforts as heroic. “I disappeared.”
Regina waits for more, unsure if she’s supposed to confirm.
“I don’t really remember anything clearly, it’s all a blur. You tried to stop me?” Emma looks up and Regina nods. “You tried to call it back.” She nods again. Emma’s eyes shine with tears. The slightest blush has come to her pale skin. “You...um...you tried to get me back using magic?”
Regina shrugs. “Of course.”
“I heard you.”
Emma’s eyes dart from Regina to the coffee to the door and back. “I heard you, every time you spoke to me while I was gone.” She wipes her eyes roughly. Regina is frozen, tearing back through her memory for what she said in her complete desperation. “It helped me so much, but it got quieter and quieter. I don’t know if it was the Darkness taking hold or you losing hope.”
Regina dabs gently at the corners of her eyes.
“It just seems unfair that I heard all of this and you didn’t know so I just don’t want to like, take advantage. Ask me anything and I’ll tell you.”
“What?” Regina swallows the lump in her throat. Nights crying on her bathroom floor still feel like an open wound and she tries not to let her mind go there. “Emma you don’t owe me anything.”
Emma sits back and wipes her face. “I feel awful, I don’t know how to, to, to pay you back for-”
“Emma!” Regina sits back too. “What are you talking about ‘pay me back’? For what? Don’t answer that.”
She reaches out and Emma crosses her arms. She shouldn’t be angry. She said she would give her space. She promised Emma space. But this is bullshit.
“I can’t believe you’re doing this.”
Emma rolls her eyes.
“Emma we’re so close.” She tries, can’t she see? They’ve made it, through everything, there’s nothing in their way except, what? Emma’s guilt?
Emma constricts even further, presses her hand to her mouth and mumbles “you wouldn’t understand.”
“You’re full of shit.” Regina says before she has a second to think. Emma’s eyebrows shoot up, almost forgetting she’s upset because she’s never heard Regina speak like that.
“Is this a joke?” Regina’s not shouting but she almost is. “Are you kidding me? Are you testing me? Are you testing my feelings for you to see if they are strong enough?”
Emma shakes her head and opens her hands trying to articulate something, but “I’m sorry.” is all she manages.
Regina looks at her hard, feels her impulse to comfort and shuts it down. “I can’t talk about this now. We have a town to rebuild. But we are going to talk about this. I’m not going to let you throw all of this away over some misplaced guilt or the need to balance an emotional check.”
She gets up and disappears in a cloud of purple smoke. Emma moans in frustration and balls her fists. She jumps when Regina’s handbag, which had been sitting on the table, also goes up in purple smoke.
“Hickory dickory dock” zing “the mouse ran up the clock” pop. Zelena attaches a giant clock to the wall of the flat. Far too big for the space but Regina doesn’t argue. She’s furnishing the kitchen with everything it needs. The Khan Family home. She knows Simin cooks a lot, always contributing to bake sales and charity events. She had described the kitchen to her. Regina adds some counterspace, throws in some more storage, makes the window over the sink a little bigger, ignoring the dimensions she has listed in her pocket.
“Sister dearest, are you by chance taking liberties with the decor when you were, pardon my french, captain anal with the building work?”
“You can’t argue with supporting walls, Zelena, the house dimensions have to make sense.”
“I take it that’s not a supporting wall, then?” She looks at the window.
“Luckily that one is so it’s not going to collapse under the weight of that monstrosity.” She motions to the wall holding the clock.
Zelena beams. “Isn’t it wonderful? How’s the Saviour doing?” Regina leans over the sink to catch a glimpse of Emma’s work. She can’t see her but she can see her efforts. Walls where foundations were, half of a roof constructed. “Maybe she could use a hand.” Zelena says, so close to Regina’s ear that she jumps.
Zelena grimaces. “I was rather thinking of someone more tangible. As in you. The sex can’t have been so bad you’re going to leave her to it all day, surely?”
Regina sighs, doesn’t even know what to say. She just stares back. “Oh god, was it? I am going to need much, much more detail on this. Is she a stone butch? No, that doesn’t make sense, they’re so giving, you’d be a mess today.” Regina crosses her arms. “Is she scared of going down on you?! I had that once and I was just like, what’s the fucking point then? I can do everything else myself, you know?” Regina blinks back. “She didn’t have trouble getting it up did she? Such a mood killer, but really it happens to the best of us.”
“It didn’t happen, Zelena. We were too tired.”
“Oh riiight.” She draws it out and looks at Regina mildly disturbed. “It’s just that it’s been about 45 years and you two are so into each other you practically vibrate when you’re together. I could charge batteries on the tension between you.”
Regina regurgitates what happened at the kitchen table and Zelena stares back frozen to the spot.
“I see.” she says, and Regina thinks she can see a blush on her for the first time ever (green being her colour, not red). “I’m just going to take a short break. Brb.”
Before Regina even has a chance to suspect she hears a crash outside and shouting. She dashes to the kitchen window and sees Emma running, then a bolt of green that shoots past her and blocks her exit. Regina groans as she watches her big sister tell off the girl she loves, dying from embarrassment but also unable to look away.
“Zelena you can’t just attack me every time something happens!” Emma shouts, throwing a shield up to deflect scary looking green light Zelena is sending her way.
“Oh I can’t? Are you going to stop me? You’re as big of a puppy dog as ever, Emma Swan, I don’t care how many undead souls you’ve raised to do your bidding.” Emma blanches. “We need to have a little chat.”
“Look, if it’s about Regina I’ve kind of had all-” Emma chokes on her words as her lips seal shut.
“Sorry I wasn’t clear,” Zelena says, “it’s less of a chat and more of a lesson. Sit.”
A bench appears under Emma moments before her ass is due to fall into some wet concrete. She smacks the bench hard with both hands and Zelena smiles.
“Picture the scene: Every reincarnated Dark One in sleepy little Storybrooke , pun intended re: sleeping. In a cruel and ironic twist of fate it is Emma Swan, Dark Saviour, the last hope for happiness, leading the charge. Second in command, Captain Dark One, scourge of the 4am dancefloor stragglers and enemy to cleanliness itself. Facing them down, two witches forced apart by a heartless mother, blessed with the power to wield light and dark, two halves of the same apple. Actually, scratch the apple part, it doesn’t work. The most impressive sorceresses to grace any realm in centuries flanked by the warrior royal family of the Enchanted Forest, and the Author of the future. The scene is set. ”
Emma manages to sigh.
“Snow White, Robin Hood and Merida...er...McScottish cover the goodies. That was us.” Zelena places her hand on her chest with a pious look. “With aims true and hearts of righteous fire, taking down Dark One after Dark One. Our Heroine - That’s me -protects the future being written there and then by the Author’s hand. Regina, the former Evil Bloody Queen, dragon tamer and, let’s be honest, the top of the Enchanted Forest’s hot 100 list, is almost gleefully getting to stretch her legs, much to the dismay of the dark forces which she is returning to the depths of inexistance. Are you following?”
Emma nods dutifully. Zelena is a dick but she’s actually doing a pretty good job of explaining what no one else has been able to explain to her yet: What actually happened.
“Ok, speeding things up. Noble Prince Charming is wielding the sword of King Arthur against Dark Hook, not looking too shabby if I do say so myself, our heroine doing a fantastic job of keeping the boy safe and looking fabulous while doing it. Ursula and Poseidon attack from the sea, which is utterly terrifying in itself, I mean thank god they were on our side. Granny and Snow are back to back but don’t quite dodge a shot from Nimue. Snow is down. Regina, fire in her eyes, turns Nimue into ribbons. Literally, Emma, ribbons.”
Emma nods to say she’s got it.
“Which side is winning? It’s hard to say, there are so many Dark Ones and there are a limited number of Storybrooke residents. Mulan and Ruby are the best team anyone’s seen since the Sheriff and the Mayor, but they’re separated from the group, there’s no way to tell how they’re doing.”
Emma knows full well that Ruby is still alive, but she’s so engrossed in the story, her heart is in her mouth.
“David sees that Snow is down. Hook takes his chance, The Dagger is at David’s neck but somehow, in defiance of the laws of physical possibility Regina is quicker and her magic is wrapped around Hook’s throat. Prince Charming escapes with the closest of shaves, still looking ever so dashing, and although the fight had been bitter thus far, the real fight was only just beginning.”
Zelena takes a moment to conjure and sip some ice water. Emma waits, barely even seeing this, her mind completely on the battle.
“Where was I? Oh yes. The sky is dark. Magic gathers. Does the world stop to watch the scene? I assume so, but I don’t know because I was watching. Two old enemies face one another. They’re smiling. Finally. Recent rivals. Fighting for their lives, for their homes, and for the love of a woman with the power to destroy them all. God I’m good at this.”
Emma tries to shout but her lips are still sealed. She just makes an angry whiny noise.
“Oh do you know the rest? Shall I stop there?”
“As I was saying. Hook jabs, Regina parries with ease. He jabs again, she counters. He feins the third attack, but she anticipates him, attacking at the same time, savouring every moment. The side of evil knows that the dagger is all he has going for him. The side of heroes can’t believe their fortune. The limitless tyrant queen lets loose an avalanche of magic for the power of good. It’s fast. Magic slicing, whirling, crackling, burning. Regina wants to keep distance between them, but he keeps getting closer. His jabs with the dagger and nicks her ribs, her cheek. It’s unclear how his physical form is able to withstand the power of the blows Regina is landing. ‘Henry!’ he shouts and for a thousandth of a second she loses focus, and he swipes. She defends but his blow lands. Her counter-curse shatters his arm and in slow motion he starts to come apart. He reaches for the Dark Saviour, suddenly the centre of it all. She has a choice. Regina is down, she could end it now, or she could save him and fight on. The Dark One reaches for him. The relief on his face palatable, but she takes the dagger and his smile falters. Prince Charming, out of nowhere, slices him from hip to shoulder with the far-famed blade of Camelot, releasing him from this mortal coil, dying as a man, not a monster.”
Emma closes her eyes. She feels the magic leave her lips and she breathes heavy, uneven breaths. Zelena hands her the water and pretends to be admiring her building handiwork while Emma processes. The sun is out, it shines through the empty spaces left for windows in the walls Emma has built. Beams of light filter through where Emma is yet to place floors. It reminds Zelena of a grand hall for a moment. Something they all probably miss.
“What next, Zelena?”
“Henry is shouting, crying, scribbling as fast as he can manage, encased in a green protective shroud. Our heroine under the strictest instructions. Protect him. At all costs. Helpless she watches her sister on the ground.”
‘Get up, Regina!’ she had screamed. ‘Mom!’ Henry yelled. Snow, on her knees beside her, aimed an arrow at Emma’s heart. It wouldn’t have killed her, only impeded for a minute at the most. Emma perhaps doesn’t need to know these details.
“Charming leaps in front of them both, Ruby appears with blood pouring down her chin, who knows if it’s hers or someone else’s? Mulan, missing armour, bleeding eyebrow, ravishingly handsome in an attack stance. ‘Formation!’ Snow calls. Granny and miscellaneous dwarves close ranks. Aladdin hops down from a rooftop somewhere flashing that scimitar, dripping with god knows what, something evil, and joins them. The world comes to a standstill. Henry’s tears blur his words on the page, maybe blurring the boundaries between what’s real, and what’s possible.”
‘Please, god, Regina get up’ Zelena had whispered as she watched a defensive ring form around her sister. She catches a glance from Snow that means ‘be ready. Be ready to run with Henry.’
“The Dark One smiles, as if she alway knew it would come down to this. Until The Queen stirs. She waves a hand and Snow comes out of her protective crouch. On her feet Regina looks back at- Ahem, something in my throat- looks back at her son. Tells him she loves him. And turns to face her final enemy.”
Emma knows Regina lives, she knows Henry is ok. But she’s crying. Face in her hands, she’s audibly, embarrassingly crying.
Zelena had been heartbroken when Regina turned away from them. She channelled it into giving Regina everything she could to win this. ‘You slap that smirk off her face, Regina!’ she had yelled ‘You’ve got this! Kick her fucking arse! You are a Mills! You have got this!’ Emma didn’t need to know that either, or that Regina had then shrugged out of her jacket and pulled her dress down a little. ‘Uh, Regina?’ Snow had questioned. ‘ I don’t tell you how to use your weapons, Snow.’ Regina had rumbled. Even from the distance Zelena was at she could see that Regina took some pleasure in grossing out Snow. Cleavage on display, but still very much secure, Regina had taken a deep breath and moved to the line.
“The line breaks as she approaches and the smile leaves the face of the Dark One. ‘Let’s not waste time, shall we?’ the Queen says. The first shot is dark magic. Regina laughs. The Dark One smirks and they circle each other. Another blast of darkness. ‘Mmm’ the Queen licks her lips like she’s savouring it, ‘just like the good old days’. The royal purple of the queen’s magic gets darker and darker. The queen laughs again, ‘Emma, why have we waited so long to do this?’. The forces of darkness get restless, sensing a shift in power. ‘You think you’re scary because you’ve been in the darkness for five minutes? I lived in darkness’ she laughs ‘I made a home in it. Stop holding back, it’s disappointing.’ And she does. Everyone can see and feel the power rolling off them, shimmering like tarmac on a hot day.”
Emma remembers, she remembers a flicker of fear. She remembers feeling Regina’s magic getting darker and darker, thinking it was all for nothing, unsure if her own living nightmare was anything compared to Regina’s. And that’s when Regina got a shot in.
“The Dark One takes a blow, hits the ground and stone cracks beneath her. Regina cracks her neck and waits. A minor Dark One takes a swipe at Regina, without looking she steps back and it misses, before a bolt from Granny sees to its end. Aladdin swipes at something coming too close. Scuffles and skirmishes start around them again.”
Zelena pauses. It’s hard to describe how the fight continued. Darkness so deep it looked like tears in the fabric of the universe. She heard them both scream, Regina was thrown back but managed to fall well, roll over and cast a defensive spell, just as a shower of darkness ricocheted off it like shrapnel.
“The fight continues. From the outside they seem equally matched. Raw power, intuition, determination, grit. Every ounce adds up to something. They circle again, wounded, bleeding, neither is smiling any longer.”
Zelena sips her water again. Emma’s head is still in her hands. Her elbows rest on her knees and one of her legs is bouncing. Zelena feels sorry for her. But she can’t leave it there.
“They both strike at once. The Dark One with the darkness of unending night, The Queen with the golden light of dawn.”
Zelena had gasped, her heart in her throat, unashamed of the tears that spilled from her eyes. Regina. It was Regina’s magic. She clears her throat again.
“What happens next is almost too difficult to explain. The elemental fight between good and evil. A dark-hearted queen fights a pure-hearted tool of darkness. Only darkness is on the losing side today. The fight lasted both a moment and an eternity. Too bright for most to see, our Heroine, that’s me you’ll recall, maintains the skill of magical sight. No one will have told you this, I doubt Regina has.”
Emma raises her head, eyes red.
“The Dark One takes a final swipe, The Dagger trained on the heart of the Queen. At that moment, the heart of the Dark One is taken. With her hand around your heart, you dropped the dagger, Emma, and you went for hers. Darkness and light swirled all around you. You screamed in agony, she gritted her teeth. Your foreheads touched and you sobbed together with your hands around each other’s hearts.”
Emma’s dream. This is what she remembers. Every joy, every sorrow became something they shared. Every part of Regina was visible to her, every torture endured, every flutter of her heart. The same must have been true for Regina.
“I know the rest.” Emma says.
“Do you? Because we still fought around you. The darkness amassed, it looked like doomsday had finally arrived, and then you both fucking exploded with light. Everything was blown away. We awoke on the ground. The sky was clearing and the sun was setting. Henry was the first to you both, curled around each other, hands clasped together. You looked like yourself. She looked like she was sleeping. We thought you were both dead.” Zelena wipes her eyes. “And then you weren’t. We had to prise you apart to get you to hospital. Our allies went home. And now we’re here. You’re both apart and nothing makes any sense. That’s why you’re struggling, you absolute fool. You don’t make sense when you’re not together.”
Emma stands up. “Thank you.” She says before she turns and walks away. Her walk is brisk. It turns into a jog. Which turns into a run.
“I’ll just sort all of this out then, no problem!” Zelena shouts behind her, gesturing to the building site, but she doesn’t really mean it, she has no intention of not finding out what happens next. She looks up at the window of the Khans’ new flat. Regina is gone.
Regina insists that, even though it’s take out, they’re still eating at the table. Sunday night, everyone is back at school tomorrow. Some of the families have been able to move into their houses, and Marissa will be out of hospital by the end of the week, which is plenty of time to rebuild the group home. She’s looking at each of them, thinking of their needs, how to furnish the house without stepping on Marissa’s toes, when the doorbell goes. Archie is due for another session with them.
She opens the door to Emma. But not the usual Emma. Her hair is down. It’s never down these days. She’s holding flowers, white tulips with purple striations. She looks more like herself than she has in forever.
“Can I come in?” She asks.
“Yes, of course.” Regina shakes her head at herself and steps back. She accepts the flowers wordlessly. They are beautiful but she can’t quite bring herself to say it. It’s ungracious, but she says nothing.
“We really need to talk.” Emma says.
“So talk.” Regina responds. It’s not as if she has anything to hide, all of her cards have been on the table for around 48 excruciating hours now.
Emma takes her hand and rushes them both to the study. She slams the door behind them, takes the flowers from Regina and drops them on the sofa.
Emma leans in to kiss her and, scarred hand sliding into her hair, presses them both against the wall. Regina inhales quickly and Emma kisses her through it. She finds her hand, locks fingers with her and places magic in Regina’s palm. The noise Regina makes gives Emma goosebumps as she accepts the magic from her. Emma can’t find the words, so she shows her. She shows her that she knows what she’s done, how hard she’s fought, who they are together and that they are equals. Regina kisses her back fiercely, her reservations and creeping doubts banished.
“I mean, you don’t have to, we can talk about boundaries, I just thought it was amusing.” Regina says and glances away.
“Why would I not want to do that? I know what your magic tastes like, as if I’m going to pass on magical-”
The door swings open and Regina slaps her hand over Emma’s mouth to hold her words in.
“The cocoa?” Henry asks, both pleased and disgusted with them. Regina drops her hand.
“It’s getting there.” Emma says and stirs the pan of hot chocolate that she had actually forgotten about. “You ok? Like, with this?”
Emma doesn’t see Regina smiling at her.
“Ma, I’ve been trying to make this happen for like years now.”
Emma’s eyebrows shoot up.
“We’ll bring it when it’s ready.” Regina says and smiles broadly at him.
He sighs but smiles through it.
Emma opens the living room door as two trays of cocoa float into the room. “What are we watching?” Emma asks as everyone starts to reach for their mugs.
“I want the one where the queen meets a dashing princess and they all live happily ever after.” Regina says with a cheeky smile at Emma that is only rarely seen, the one where she’s being silly on purpose, which almost never happens.
Emma slides into the space between Regina and the arm of the sofa. “They haven’t made a movie about us.” she says.
“Not yet.” Jama says and everyone laughs. Minnie laughs the most of all, though Regina’s sure she doesn’t understand the joke. She wriggles into her lap and promptly falls asleep with one hand tangled in Emma’s hair.
“Ah. I don’t remember Henry doing this.” Emma says as she surrenders her discomfort to the child curled up between them tugging her locks.
“My hair was shorter than yours is.” Regina gives her an apologetic smile. “How about Inside Out?” Regina asks. It seems fitting after Archie’s session with them (and two furiously blushing saviours of Storybrooke who were only alerted to his presence by the third ring of the doorbell.)
“Done.” Emma flicks a finger and the DVD player which was never actually broken in the first place, starts the movie.
Emma’s arm is curled around Regina, who in turn is curled around Minnie. Emma takes a moment for herself to take in her surroundings. Henry catches her eye and smiles. He has her dimples, but his smile is all Regina. He nods at Regina, whose eyes are closed. Emma presses a kiss to her forehead and a little pop of golden magic ripples quietly through the room.
“Going to have to get used to that.” Regina whispers, eyes closed, but smiling.
Thanks for reading! :kisses: