In the Velvet Darkness, Chapter 8

Previously: Chapter 7 [A]

Final part.
Rated A.

* * * * *

Monday Morning to Evening

Before they even entered the apartment, Emma realised that Regina had dressed her in what passed for her Sheriff’s uniform: boots, jeans, red leather jacket, badge and gun hooked onto her favourite belt. She was also wearing the same sweater from the day before, the Christmas present sweater, clean and pressed and smelling like a fresh summer’s day. Maybe she was reaching, but that small gesture seemed to imply that Regina didn’t completely regret what had happened between them, no matter what she had said before. But it was hard to tell because Regina wouldn’t look at her, wouldn’t allow Emma to get a read on her, and resisted when Emma tried to pull her around to face her. She twisted away from Emma’s grasp and knocked on the door of the apartment.

It started well, with Henry running in a very un-teen-like fashion straight into Regina’s arms, and Emma was a complete sucker for that shit. Seeing Henry and Regina happy together never got old, not even for a second. Then the kid pulled her into the hug as well, and Regina didn’t object. And Emma wasn’t above using any opportunity to play dirty, so she wrapped her arm around Regina’s waist, and made sure that they were tight against each other. Maybe she was reaching again, but it felt like Regina was leaning into Emma harder than she needed to, and that her palm wasn’t just accidentally pressed against Emma’s thigh. If Emma squinted just right, she could pretend that they were the only three people in the room. Hell, with her eyes shut and her arms around the two people she loved most, she could pretend that they were the only three people in the world.

Henry was babbling away about how he’d been worried and how they’d looked and looked and looked for them. In that moment, he was both that ten-year-old kid who showed up at her front door and changed her life irrevocably and also far too tall to be that little boy anymore. While Emma was paying attention to everything that he said, and drinking in the solidity of him in her embrace, she stayed focused on Regina, too. Then Henry asked what they’d done all weekend and Regina inclined her head towards Emma. For a second or two, Regina’s eyes melted to soft, tender, loving, with just enough of a smirk to hint that she might be remembering every intimate moment. And the world slowed down completely, narrowed until it was just them and no-one else, just Emma looking at Regina, and Regina looking back. It was just Emma tilting her head and challenging Regina with her eyes, even as she felt a blush spreading across her cheeks, asking her wordlessly to admit that what they had together had been real and worthwhile and good.

Regina nodded.

Regina nodded, and Emma grinned like her face could split in two, because maybe it had just been a panic attack. Regina woke up and had a full-on panic attack, which would make complete sense, because Regina, even more than Emma, thought that the world was out to get her. And, to be fair, she had every right to think that, because the woman had a couple of lifetimes’ worth of the world being out to get her. Everyone Regina loved was dead or taken from her: Daniel and Henry Senior and Cora and Zelena and Robin and Henry, all lost by her own hand or another’s. Emma had been the one to take her most recent happy endings away—first Henry, and then Robin—and Emma got that, which is why she had tried to apologise repeatedly over the weekend. And love scared the crap out of Emma, but it had to be utterly terrifying for Regina.

She knew what she had to do. She had to be strong and brave and fearless and all the things which people expected the Saviour to be, and which Emma rarely was. She had to be sure enough for both of them, and she had to project that certainty to Regina, show her that she wouldn’t back down, that she wasn’t scared or unsure of anything.

Then Regina blinked and turned back to Henry, giving him her special Mom smile and insisting that they had spent all their time trying to work out how to get home to him, but she looked back up at Emma, and there was the start of something in her eyes, like she, too, wished her future could be the three of them.

When they broke apart, Emma saw that Snow had one of her about-to-cry looks on her face and the kidlet—also known as the baby brother, the munchkin, the little man, the tyke, anything which meant she didn’t have to call him Neal—nestled on her hip. David was behind his wife, giving Emma a sheepish grin. No matter how awkward their relationship was, they were still parents who had missed their daughter, in the same way that she and Regina were parents who had missed their son, so Emma let herself be welcomed into another group hug. This second hug was stiffer and a lot shorter than Regina-Emma-Henry. She held on a little longer than she wanted to, but probably nowhere near as long as her sniffling mother would have preferred.

And then the questions started in earnest, and Regina was no help with that, leaving Emma to tell her parents and son as much of their weekend as possible while still leaving out what was, for her, the most important detail. Regina stood behind their son, her hands on his shoulders, keeping him as a barrier between herself and the rest of the Charmings, or maybe just between herself and Emma. Sure and strong and fearless, she thought, moving around to stand beside Regina, because that was where she belonged now. It was where she should always have been: shoulder-to-shoulder with the woman she loved.

She told her parents and Henry about the empty town with its weird stillness and pervasive darkness and how they’d looked everywhere for clues, combed the whole town for magic, until they found the barrier. She ignored her mother’s disapproving looks at having gone into the mines—‘They’re so dangerous, Emma,’ like there weren’t much worse dangers invited into their homes every day, like Snow hadn’t picked the goddamned Wicked Witch as her own midwife—and tried to keep her focus on David, because he was her Deputy as well as her father. As long as she was looking at him, she could try to remain strong and stoic and be the Sheriff, because his daughter, Emma, wanted to tell the world, starting with her family, that she was helplessly in love with Regina. But, if Regina wanted her in Sheriff mode, then that was what she’d give her.

And then, of course, someone had to say something stupid. She had expected that it would be her mother, because Snow was the person most likely to open their mouth without thinking, but it was her father. Her own damned father was the one to let her down.

“That all sounds terrible, Emma. It must have been horrible for you,” he said, like that was the only obvious conclusion which could be drawn from what she’d said.

“Being stuck with me, you mean?” Regina said. Emma winced, expecting the shit to hit the fan. She glanced at Regina, who had her very tightest trying-not-to-commit-murder smile plastered across her face, and then back at her father, who probably hadn’t been trying to imply any such thing. At least, not intentionally, and not to Regina’s face.

“Uh, no, that’s not what I meant. I meant it must have been terrible for both of you, being stuck with each other,” David said, although it really wasn’t much of an improvement. “I mean, being isolated from everyone. You know, being stranded together.” His eyes were pleading with Emma to help him out.

“The worst part was not knowing what had happened to Henry,” she said, turning to look at Regina before repeating what she had told her the first day in the diner. “But there’s no-one else I’d rather be stranded with than Regina. She’s my best friend.” She turned to Henry. “And we’re like this awesome magic-fighting superhero team, your Mom and me. She’s the one who figured everything out. She’s the one who knew what to do and where to look, and kept me from killing myself by launching myself through a barrier to God-knows-where. She’s the one who kept us sane and got us back here safely.” She turned back to her parents. “And she’s the one who knew it was Killian who cast the spell.”

“Killian?” Snow said. “But that’s impossible! He loves you!”

“No, that can’t be right. It must have been someone else. He would never do such a thing,” her father said.

Regina raised her eyebrow at Emma. She’d said no-one would believe her, and now Emma’s parents were proving her right. Deep, even breaths, Emma told herself.

“Yes, he would. He did. I saw him.”

“How could you have seen him, Emma?” Snow asked.

“We went to the B&B, and I sensed him.”

“You sensed him?” Her father sounded sceptical.

“Regina showed me how to follow a spell with my magic, so I did, and, then—bam!—I was right there in the room with him on Thursday and saw him casting it.”

“That’s not even possible, Emma,” Snow said, her brow furrowed. “Even in our world, magic doesn’t work like that. You would need a totem, like a dream catcher, and even then it would only work on memories. You cannot look into someone else’s past like it was a movie.”

“I can. I did. I’m telling you, I saw him.” Emma folded her arms over her chest.

“Your daughter is more talented than I could ever have imagined,” Regina said, and Emma shot her a glare, because saying that they could never be together and then taunting her parents with knowledge they didn’t possess about them having been together was un-fucking-fair and Regina knew it. But Regina seemed to be gloating about the statement, like she was proud of what had happened, so Emma would let it slide. Regina was difficult and contrary and hard work, and hell if Emma didn’t love her all the more for that. Emma didn’t really want easy. She liked that Regina was a challenge: it made the good times all the more worth savouring.

“I still don’t believe Killian would do this. He’s good now. He loves you so much, Emma,” Snow said.

“Who do you think is to blame, then?” Regina asked, her body tight and her tone scornful, so obviously bracing herself for the accusation she was expecting.

“This has to be dark magic.” Snow frowned and adjusted Neal on her hip, looking down at his head briefly. Emma envied her brother for being unaware of his family dynamic. “We should ask Blue what the cause might be.”

“We don’t need to ask that damned fairy, Snow,” Regina said. “It was Jones. I sensed it, and Emma used her magic—her good, pure, born-of-True-Love magic—to follow the spell, and she saw him burning a parchment in a spell cup, making the incantation. It’s not like we used a dream catcher to pull a fake memory from a dog or anything.”

Emma rolled her eyes. Man, her family had the world’s most difficult shared history. What she wouldn’t give for their worst problems to be something normal, like an uncle who got overtly racist when he drank too much, or a stoner cousin who grew pot in the back yard.

“Right, here’s what happening,” she said, squaring her shoulders and butting in before her mother could say anything to make matters more awkward. “Regina and I are gonna take Henry to school—”

“But, Mom, I wanna stay with you today,” Henry said, wisely knowing that Regina was a bigger sucker for his puppy-dog eyes than Emma, who recognised one of her own cons when she saw it.

“I’d like that, too, darling,” Regina said. “But you don’t get to skip school just because of a spell.”

“No,” Emma said. “If that was the rule, we might as well tear the school down for all the use it’d get in this town.” Regina gave her a weak smile, while Henry pleaded with his eyes for her to give in and be the fun parent again. Not today, kid. “So, right, we take Henry to school, and you, Dad, are gonna arrest Killian and have him in the cells for when we get there.” It was cheating to call him Dad just to get him to do what she wanted, just like it was cheating for Henry to use the puppy-dog eyes on Regina, but the sappy look on David’s face told her that it had worked.

“We?” Regina and Snow chorused.

“Regina knows a lot more about this magic stuff than I do, so I need her there to help with the questioning.” Besides, she really didn’t want Regina out of her sight at all. Ever again, if possible. “So, you go get your things together, kid, and you can have the joy of being walked to school by both of your moms.” She gave him a sarcastic grin. “And, if you’re good, we’ll hold your hands and swing you between us like a big boy.”

Henry huffed a couple of times, but relented when he saw that it wasn’t working on either parent. Without him as a barrier, Regina looked small and lost. Emma tried to lean into her again, to offer her support through closeness, but Regina folded her arms across her chest and stepped aside.

“So, what else did you two get up to?” David asked, causing Emma to swing her head in his direction.

“What do you mean?” She was immediately defensive, wondering what he was implying.

“There can’t have been much to do with with no-one else there,” he said.

“Oh, you know, we found ways to entertain ourselves,” Regina said. “Braiding each other’s hair, telling ghost stories around the campfire, eating s’mores.”

David seemed taken aback by Regina’s curt tone, because they really were friends these days and any show of animosity was rare. But Emma figured from the way Regina was glowering at her, it was aimed at her, not her father. Either way, things were getting awkward, so Emma walked over and picked up her brother, dancing around with him in her arms as a distraction for all four adults in the room.

“Mom, Dad? Why don’t you go get Henry’s things together so I can pick them up later and take them over to Regina’s for him?”

David looked between her and Regina, then nodded. “Sure,” he said, putting his arm around Snow’s shoulder and ushering her away. Emma sighed with relief inwardly. She’d always suspected that her father knew how she felt about Regina, and his backwards glance at her confirmed as much.

“How about you, kidlet?” she asked Neal. “Did you miss me?” He giggled and hugged his little arms around her neck.

“Love you, Emma,” he said.

“And Regina?” She bounced over to the brunette, whom Emma knew to be a complete pushover for any child, but especially this one.

“Love you too, R’gina.” He beamed at Regina, easily coaxing a matching smile in response.

“And I love you, little one,” Regina replied, lifting him out of Emma’s arms. Like with Henry, Emma could watch Regina with Neal all day long. She was so radiant when she was being a mom. Unlike Emma, Regina was a natural with kids.

“I wish we’d have been able to raise Henry together at this age,” she said. “I know I’ve got all those memories you gave me, but they’re still not real, and I’d love to have seen you with him like this.”

“That would hardly have been possible with the curse.” Regina rocked Neal from side-to-side, smiling down at him.

“I know, but I still wish it.”

Regina shook her head. “Wishes are dangerous things. I thought you would have learned that this weekend.”

“I don’t regret a single thing about this weekend.” Emma reached out and smoothed her brother’s hair down. It was soft and silky against her palm, just like her implanted memories of Henry. “Except the fight we had this morning.”

“Don’t.”

“Don’t what?” She stepped back and folded her arms across her chest.

“We’ve had this conversation.”

Emma shrugged. “I don’t care. I love you.”

“Emma.” Neal shifted in Regina’s arms and started to play with her necklace, having no interest in the grown-up conversation going on around him.

“What? You don’t want to hear it? Then, fine, don’t listen. But it won’t make me stop. It won’t make it any less true. And I’m going to keep saying it until you believe me.”

“Now you’re just being stubborn.”

“Yup, I am. I still love you, though.” Strong and brave and fearless, she told herself. “And I’m not going to stop telling you so.”

Neal tugged particularly hard at Regina’s necklace, and she shifted him again, laying him out flat between her arms and then moving him around like an airplane, one of his favourite games. Emma congratulated herself on keeping him with them; it was hard to be too harsh when you were holding a toddler and making noises like a jet engine. They both enjoyed the simple laughter of the little boy between them for a few moments, then Regina gave Neal a final kiss before passing him back to Emma.

“Persistence is a fine thing, Emma, but it’s an approach which didn’t exactly work out for Hook, now, did it?”

And, just like that, she was shot down in flames.

+

The walk to school was awkward and tense and filled with strained looks between the women, although Henry’s constant conversation helped a little, because Regina never could maintain a bad mood around him. The second he ran into the schoolyard, however, she turned to Emma with her eyes blazing and her jaw set in a hard line.

“I’m going home,” she said, before Emma could speak. “I have no desire to stand in the background while you interrogate your boyfriend, and we both know that you don’t need me there. You saw what happened. This whole mess is between you and him, so you deal with it.” She turned on her heel and started walking away.

“This whole mess?” Emma called after her. “By that, do you mean the spell or the fact that you’re trying to pretend that you don’t love me back?” But Regina didn’t answer her or turn around. “Regina! Hold up.” Regina kept walking, and Emma had no choice but to break into a jog, wondering how a shorter woman wearing high heels could out-stride her quite so easily. “Regina. Come on, you can’t just ignore me.” Although the evidence seemed to point to the contrary.

The other woman finally stopped. “You have a key to the house. You can drop Henry’s things there this afternoon and I’ll pick him up from school. Or, don’t, and I’ll get them from your parents’ place later. Either way, text me to let me know what you’re doing.” With a quick glance up and down the street to check that she wasn’t being observed, Regina twirled her fingers and disappeared in a wisp of white smoke.

Emma’s head dropped back and she lifted her hands in a silent scream.

It took her twenty minutes to walk to the Sheriff’s station, twenty minutes in which six or seven texts demanding that Regina talk to her had gone unanswered, so she’d built up a pretty good head of steam by the time she got there. She was seriously considering leaving her father to deal with Killian while she poofed back to Regina’s house to continue their fight, even though she suspected that would be the wrong move. No matter what, she had to face Killian and deal with what he’d done to them.

Entering her office, she found her father at her desk, talking on the phone. He took one look at her and frowned.

“Emma just got here, so I’ll call you back later when I know more. Yeah, I love you too,” he said, and hung up. “That was your mother.”

Emma rolled her eyes. It was hardly likely to have been anyone else. “Is he in the cells?”

“Yes.”

“Where did you find him?”

“Drunk, in his room. I get the feeling he was expecting me. Or maybe you.”

“And you explained the charges?”

“I didn’t know what to charge him with, but I told him he was being arrested in connection with the disappearance of the Sheriff and the Mayor. I filled him in on what happened, and where you’ve both been.”

“Yeah, I haven’t figured it all out yet, either, but kidnapping and assault seem a good place to start.” Assault was probably a better choice than kidnapping. The last thing they needed was any trouble which might get the Feds interested in their magic-ridden town.

“For what it’s worth, I think he’s really sorry.”

“There’s a lot of really fucking sorry going around today. Doesn’t make any of it right. You coming with?” She didn’t wait for an answer, heading straight to the root of her most recent troubles. As soon as she saw him, sitting on the cot with his head hanging down, she lost it.

“What the actual, ever-living fuck were you thinking of, Killian?” She walked right up to the bars and grabbed them, her face contorted with anger. “I mean, seriously. Fucking with magic like that can get people killed. What if the spell had gone wrong? Did you even consider Henry in all of this? You could’ve made my son a fucking orphan, you selfish prick.”

He got up and stopped a foot or so beyond her reach. And, right then, she could see it in his face, the instant when he considered lying to her by pretending that he didn’t know what she was talking about. But it passed, and he had the gall to look sheepish instead, like he’d been caught passing notes to a girl in class, rather than casting a black magic spell which had banished the woman he allegedly loved and the woman she actually loved to an alternate reality for a weekend. He looked to David, who appeared in the doorway, and then back to Emma.

“It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” He raised his palms forward in supplication.

“Oh, really? I’m sorry. I don’t have much experience with wish spells, so why don’t you tell me exactly what was it supposed to be like, then?” She wanted to reach through the bars and throttle him.

“You were only supposed to fall in love with me, without her there to ruin everything, like she always does.”

“Oh, well, that’s okay, then. You weren’t trying to kill me, just the mother of my son.”

“I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone, Swan! No-one was meant to be in any danger of any kind.” He leaned in, so close that she could smell the rum on his breath and sense the resentment rolling off him. “I just wanted one weekend, one measly weekend, with her out of the way so that you would finally realise that we belong together.” He jutted his chin towards her. “Do you know how hard it is to feel like that you’re second-best, a consolation prize?”

“Of course I fucking know!” Of all the people in all worlds that he knew, surely he realised that she knew what that felt like more than anyone else? Sent to a different realm as an infant; years in the foster system; abandoned by her first love; baby in jail; replacement baby brother named after the first love who had abandoned her to have a baby in jail: the list went on and on. “You think I don’t feel like that every day of my life?”

“And you don’t think I deserved better than that? Than your pity?”

“It wasn’t pity! I love you. I genuinely do.” And she did. She had. He was her friend, and maybe that was all he should ever have been, but she had given him two years of trying to make it work, which was more than she’d ever given anyone else.

“Perhaps, but she’s the one you’re in love with.”

“Of course she is! But I’ve been in love with her for five fucking years and I’d never done anything about it before!”

Crap. That was not something she’d intended to say out loud with her father in the room. She closed her eyes and rubbed her fingers into her forehead. She looked over her shoulder at David, but he shrugged back at her. Yeah, he knew already.

“You might not see it, but you’ve been leaving me for months now, choosing her over me, running to her whenever things between us were getting too close.” He shook his head. “She always comes first with you, whereas all I had was the constant expectation that you’d leave me for her.”

“I wouldn’t have. If you hadn’t done all this, I wouldn’t have done anything. I made my choice. I chose to be with you.”

“But you wanted to be with her.”

“Maybe at one time. But I had accepted that would never happen, so I moved on. With you.”

“You’re lying to yourself if you think that, lass. You never moved on, and all I ever got from you was the scraps you were willing to throw me. I am your lowest priority, after her then the boy then your parents then your job and anything else you can think of. You’ve never once looked at me the way you look at her. I gave up my life and my ship for you, and you won’t even give up your precious family dinners with her for me. I deserved more than that!”

“What, exactly, do you think you deserved?”

“I deserved your love. I deserved it a lot more than she ever has. All I wanted to do was to make you see that.”

She couldn’t believe that he was being this selfish. Even though Regina had told her that he saw Emma as a prize, she hadn’t really believed it.

“And you thought that making her disappear would somehow make me stop being in love with her and fall in love with you? Do you know how crazy that sounds? Surely you must have realised that, as soon as I knew she was gone, I would have moved heaven and hell to get her back?”

“The spell should have banished your feelings for her.”

“Even if I wasn’t in love with her, I’m the Sheriff. It’s my job to find missing people, no matter what I feel for them.”

“You wouldn’t have even thought about her!” Although he was shouting, he wasn’t angry, Emma knew: he was frustrated. He didn’t think he’d done anything wrong. He was only sorry that his plan hadn’t worked.

“Fuck, you’re stupid. There is no magic in the world strong enough to make me forget her. Even in New York, she was there with me. Even on my best day, I knew that the most important part of me was missing. And that was from a curse cast by an evil old man with powers beyond your imagining, not some stupid little spell that you cast in a mixing bowl in your bedroom.” She needed to calm down before she said or did something unforgivable. She could feel the magic building within her, begging for release. The last thing she wanted to do was unleash it in anger.

“It would have worked well enough. We could have been happy.” And, shit, he really believed that. Everything about him said that he thought she could have been happy without Regina. She had really fucked her own life beyond repair if this was where they were.

“Are you even listening to yourself?”

Her father stepped from the wall and placed a hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently and pulling her away from the bars, nodding towards her hands where small tendrils of white were starting to emanate from her fingers. Fuck. She stumbled to the side and felt David put his arm around her waist to steady her.

“Why don’t you tell me everything?” he said to Hook, moving his hand to the small of Emma’s back, rubbing small circles in a calming motion. “Start with where you got the spell.”

“I’ve had it a long time, one of the many things I’ve collected on my travels. I don’t even remember where I got it from. Some warlock in some tavern somewhere, probably. I traded a lot of my possessions to get my hands on dark magic back in the realms, anything which I thought would get me my revenge on Rumplestiltskin.” Hook walked backwards and dropped back down to the edge of the cot.

“And what does it do?” David said.

“Two things. It grants your heart’s desire, and it temporarily removes the greatest impediment to that desire so that you can achieve it.”

“So, what did you wish for?”

“I told you already. I wished for Emma to fall in love with me without her feelings for Regina in the way.”

She couldn’t stay silent; she just couldn’t. “You can’t just wish for someone to fall in love with you, Killian,” Emma said. “If nothing else, surely Regina’s curse proved that you can’t make a happy ending out of dark magic?”

“All I needed was a few days, a few days for you to stop thinking about her, and really see how much I love you. That love would have been enough, You would have responded to the wish and you would have fallen in love with me, too. The spell intensifies as it burns out, so the longer we were together, the stronger your feelings for me would have grown, and the more you would have needed to be around me. If it had worked correctly, you shouldn’t even have noticed that Regina wasn’t around. You wouldn’t have been able to focus on anything except me and our love for each other. By the time the spell ended, your mind would have adjusted your memories to fit. It would’ve been like we’d always been in love, because you wouldn’t remember anything else. When you saw Regina, you would have felt nothing but friendship, maybe not even that.”

“But it wouldn’t have been real, and you can’t build a life on a fucking lie!” Her body was going rigid again, and she knew the magic was building. This time, David moved to stand between her and Hook, his hand reaching back to find her, and she would have taken it, but she didn’t want to accidentally hurt him with her magic. Instead, she let her forehead rest on her father’s shoulder. She needed to concentrate on the breathing exercises Regina had taught her to control her magic because her emotions were getting out of control. Everything that Hook had just said was pushing her towards a terrible realisation, one which explained why Regina had behaved the way she had in Fake Storybrooke and why, once returned, she didn’t want anything to do with Emma.

“So why do you think it banished the two of them?” David said.

“I don’t know. I thought it meant Regina would have been unable to leave her house or something. I have no idea why it sent them both to another realm.”

“I do,” Emma said. It was one of the few things she’d learned from all those magic books that Regina thought she’d never read. “You can’t separate conjoined magic.”

“What?” Hook said.

“Conjoined magic. Over the years, my magic has become conjoined with Regina’s. It’s probably why she can sense me all the time.”

“She can sense you?” David asked.

“Apparently. Even when you guys were in the Enchanted Forest without me. I can feel her, too, but I thought it was just because I was in love with her.” She closed her eyes and thought about Regina, and felt a pang of deep sadness in her chest. She didn’t know whether it was hers, Regina’s or both of theirs, but she knew that Regina was probably feeling the same thing, too. “When he tried to take her from me, my magic just kinda reached out, I guess.”

Regina had been right. Who they had been that weekend, that wasn’t who they were. They weren’t in love. Well, she was, but Regina wasn’t. Hook had made a wish and magic had transferred it to Emma. Regina had acted like she was in love with her because that was Emma’s truest desire. Regina had said all those things and done all those things because that was what Emma had always wanted from her. It hadn’t been real.

“I think my magic took over the spell, Dad. That world, it responded to my wishes.” She balled her fists and shook her head. “None of it was real,” she said so quietly that only David heard her. “Everything that happened between us was because I wished for it, not because it was what she wanted.”

Suddenly, she had no desire to be there, or to punish anyone. She just felt weary.

What Emma had seen at the mansion that morning hadn’t been signs of Regina’s being in love with her. No, Regina had been upset after speaking to Killian because Emma was her best friend—really her only true friend, certainly the only person who she spent any real time with other than Henry—and withdrawing from her life would have been hard.

“You wanna know the worst thing?” she asked Hook. “You didn’t even have to do any of this. She was willing to stay out of my life so that you and me could have a chance together.”

“What?” That piqued Killian’s interest.

“Your little chat after lunch on Thursday. She told me all about it. And she was going to stay away from me, like you asked.”

“She told me she’d never do that, in this life or any other.”

“She lied. She lashed out because you pushed her and threatened her, but she was going to give you your chance anyway.”

“Why would she? She made it very clear how unworthy of you she thought I was.”

“She wasn’t doing it for you.” She shook her head. “She was doing it for me because she’s a good person who loves me as a friend and she thought it was what I wanted. But now, thanks to your stupid spell, she knows exactly how I feel about her in living fucking colour. And I’ve violated any trust she had in me by having sex with her when she had no choice but to respond. You’ve ruined any relationship I had with her, you’ve killed any chance that I would even want to be in the same room as you ever again, and none of us has anything left. So, you know, great fucking job, Killian. Really well fucking done.” Okay, she needed to get out of there, because she was going to cry, and she wasn’t going to give Hook the satisfaction of seeing that he’d broken her. “Dad, can you take over here? I need to be somewhere else.”

“What do you want me to do with him?” He nodded towards Hook, and tried to take a step towards her, but she backed up. She didn’t want comfort. She just needed to be alone, and she hoped that he would understand that.

“Hold him. Let him go. I don’t really care. Just keep him out of my sight. I don’t think I can bear to even look at him again.” She turned to leave and stopped in the doorway. “I’ll talk to you later, okay? I just, I need a little time.”

“Sure, baby girl. Whatever you want.”

+

She walked for hours, heading out to the woods and back along the beach. She needed to be wherever people weren’t. She needed to be alone to process the fact that she had had sex with someone who had no real choice in the situation, which was sexual assault, no matter how you dressed it up. All she could hope was that Regina would remember that she had stopped—twice, she had stopped twice—to make sure that magic wasn’t the reason for what was happening. It hadn’t even occurred to her that magic would have prevented Regina from telling the truth about that. Regina gave Emma her heart’s desire, probably didn’t know what she was doing or saying as she did so, and therefore was in no state to provide any form of real consent, and, shit, damn, fuck, life was not fair.

The more she thought about it all, the worse she felt, and she cried until there were no tears left in her, and the cold had numbed her to the point where she couldn’t feel anything anymore. Or so she thought until she reached the docks, and there was Regina, waiting for her.

Emma didn’t doubt for a moment that Regina was waiting for her, because it always came down to that: the two of them on that dock, wind whipping at their hair, the brine from the Atlantic Ocean making the air sting against their cheeks, and the weight of expectation hanging between them.

Regina was wrapped up in the black wool pea coat which Emma had helped her pick out the previous winter, and wearing gloves and a scarf that Emma had paid for as Henry’s birthday present to her back in February. And, Jesus, it was physically painful just seeing her, when she was so beautiful and Emma was so in love with her. And it was so much worse now, because Emma would always know what she was missing, in a way she hadn’t before. Emma knew how happy they could have been together, even if it was only a one-sided fantasy of hers.

“Hi.” Regina looked nervously from Emma out to the ocean and back again, her gaze refusing to settle.

“Hi.”

“Your father called me. He told me about Hook and the spell.”

“So, you know everything, then?”

“I know what you think it means.” Regina seemed to be picking her words carefully. “We were worried about you, Emma.”

“Yeah, I just needed to get away for a few hours. Process, you know.” She moved over to the bench—their bench—and sat down. Regina sat next to her, still looking out to sea. Judging from the darkening sky, it had to be early evening. She had somewhat lost track of time during her walk. “Where’s Henry?”

“At home.” Regina folded her hands in her lap and clasped them in a motion which Emma knew she fell back on when she was nervous or tense. Who could blame her? Everything was pretty fucked up.

“Right.” Home. Henry’s home was with Regina. It always had been. Emma wanted her home to be with Regina, too, but that was never going to happen. That would never happen because she was the latest in a long line to take Regina’s choices from her, to bend her to her will.

She breathed in and out because she could still be brave and strong and fearless, even if was just to pretend that she was okay, when she didn’t think she would ever be okay again. But they had been best friends for a long time, and maybe, with a lot of work, they could be friends again. Or civil. Civil would be a start.

“I’m sorry about the spell. I know there’s nothing I can do to make it up to you, but I just—”

“Emma, I didn’t come here to talk about that.”

“What?” She stared at Regina. “You didn’t?”

“No. Well, perhaps. Not exactly. I—” Regina still wouldn’t look back at her, and she was still wringing her hands, biting her lip. “I wanted to tell you a story.”

“A story?”

“More like a fairytale, really.”

“Right. Okay.” She had no idea what was going on, but Regina was next to her, on their bench, and that was more than she’d hoped for over the previous few hours. “A fairytale?”

“I assume you know what that is, given that you’re the child of one.”

“Of course I—” She stopped as she realised that Regina was just teasing her. “Yeah, I know what a fairytale is, although I’m not a huge fan of them.”

“Well, I think you’ll like this one.” Regina leaned forward and sat on her hands, staring out at the ocean. “At least, I hope you will.”

“Okay.”

Regina’s head was down, and her hair was obscuring the side of her face a little, but it was still a beautiful face, and Emma didn’t think she would ever tire of looking at it. She wanted to lean over and tuck the hair behind Regina’s ear, but touching was out of the question for the foreseeable future, she reckoned. So she waited until Regina started to speak and, when she did, even then, Emma held her breath.

“Once upon a time, there was an Evil Queen who ruled over a cursed kingdom in Maine, where nothing ever happened and every day was the same. And the Queen was very unhappy and very, very lonely, so she adopted a beautiful little boy. For a few years, that boy filled her life and her heart with such love and joy that she forgot how unhappy she had been. But it could never last because her love was twisted and unforgiving and possessive, and it made the little boy unhappy—”

“Regina.” God, she hated it when Regina was hard on herself. The other woman gave her a pained look.

“—so he ran away to the kingdom of Boston to find his real mother, a knight in faded red leather. The Knight was bound by destiny to end the Queen’s curse, so the Queen tried to get rid of the Knight, but she found that she had lost her knack for evil schemes. Moreover, she didn’t really want the Knight gone, but she was so scared that the end of the curse would mean that she would lose her little boy, and she didn’t know what else to do. The Queen did a number of unspeakable things, including murder and blackmail and nearly losing her son to a sleeping curse of her own making. But the curse broke anyway, and the Queen was all alone again, and her son still hated her.”

“He never really hated you,” Emma said.

Regina turned her head then, and she was raw and open and real, and her eyes shone with that fondness which Emma had come to think of as hers and hers alone.

“Are you going to interrupt my story the same way I did your apology?”

“Probably.”

“Well, perhaps you could wait to the end and I’ll take questions and comments from the floor.” And she smiled at her. It was soft and it was tentative, but it was a good smile.

“Fine.” She shrugged, and Regina nodded.

“An unspeakable evil took their little boy away, and the Knight and the Queen had to team up to save him, because no-one else could possibly be as strong together as they were. When the three of them were reunited, the Queen swore to herself that she would do whatever it took to make the Knight and their little boy happy for the rest of their lives. But a second curse came, and the Queen knew that she would have to give up that which she loved the most. Even though it felt worse than ripping her own heart out, she sent the Knight and their son off to the kingdom of New York, with only the happiest memories and wishes for a long life together. And the Queen returned with her people to the Enchanted Forest, where she cried every day at the loss of them.” Regina reached up with a gloved hand to wipe away tears from the corner of her eye. “And then a fairy told her that her soulmate, a man known as the Prince of Thieves, was nearby and that he would give her the love she had always craved. So, she tried with him for a short time, but it was a huge mistake, because the Queen knew instantly she could never fall in love with this man because her heart still belonged to her greatest love.”

“Daniel?” Emma tried to smile. It was stupid to feel jealous of a guy who’d been murdered long before she was even born, but she did.

“Oh, my sweet girl, not him—you. Robin could never have replaced you. You’re the one, Emma, you.” Regina lifted her hand to her mouth and pulled off her glove with her teeth before reaching out to cup Emma’s cheek, her thumb moving across her skin. “And this not-interrupting thing really isn’t working out for you, is it?”

“Sorry.” She wasn’t sorry at all. So far, this was turning out to be the best story she’d ever heard.

“No, you’re not.” Regina rolled her eyes, but looked at her with such tenderness and adoration that Emma knew this was what she had been looking for all her life. This woman was everything. “Anyway, the second curse was broken by a third curse, and the Queen was reunited with her Knight and their son, but it was bittersweet, because her Knight had found another. Even though it tore at her soul every day to see them together, the Queen stood aside and let the Knight find her happy ending with a one-handed pirate. It wasn’t what she wanted, but the Queen and the Knight and their boy were a family in their own way, and that was enough. They settled into a haphazard life, interspersed with wicked half-sisters and Snow Queens and curses and all manner of magical mishaps. But the pirate could see what the Knight could not: that the Queen was still in love with her Knight, and still wanted her for herself, even though that was selfish and unfair and everything she had promised not to be anymore.”

Regina’s eyes were glistening with tears, but her hand was still on Emma’s face, and her eyes were still soft. Emma was drowning in those eyes, losing the battle against keeping her own tears inside.

“So the pirate cast a spell, a foolish spell from dark magic which he didn’t understand, and it banished the Queen to another realm. But her Knight, her beautiful, wonderful, idiotic Knight, stepped in to protect the Queen, not even knowing that was what she was doing. The Queen and her Knight were trapped by the spell for three days and three nights. And although she knew it was wrong, the Queen took advantage of the situation by doing what she had wanted for far too long, and took the Knight to her bed, just as surely as she had already taken her to her heart.”

“But the spell—” She was cut off by Regina’s fingers against her lips.

“No spell could make me love you or want you, Emma, because I already did.” Regina was now almost fully turned towards her, smiling through her tears. “I didn’t tell you anything this weekend which wasn’t true last week or last month or last year. And I shouldn’t have let you believe that anything I said or did was because you wished it. That was craven and cowardly of me, and I apologise.”

Emma wiped her own tears away with the back of her hand. “But I transported us back to my house and I undressed you and that was because I wished for it.”

“First, you didn’t wish for anything I wouldn’t have wished for myself,” Regina tucked a strand of hair behind Emma’s ear and then her hand found its place on Emma’s neck, and it was still love and belonging and home, “and, second, you didn’t compel me to do a single thing to which I didn’t fully consent. And, before you say anything else, Killian Jones is hardly a great wielder of magical power. He cast a spell which he picked up in a tavern from a stranger, and it probably wouldn’t even have worked on you the way he intended. You cannot cast silly little spells against magic as strong as ours, Emma, and expect them to work the way they would on peasants.”

“But, I—”

Regina shut her eyes and leaned her forehead against Emma’s. “There is nothing we did together that I haven’t wanted to do for a very long time. My only regret is that I gave into those feelings, because that was unfair to you.”

“Unfair to me?” Emma pulled back, not understanding and needing to see Regina’s face properly for some kind of clue. “How is any of this unfair to me?”

“Because,” Regina paused and removed her hand from Emma’s neck, letting it fall only as far as her lap, so at least there was still contact, “my actions caused you to admit things which you clearly felt uncomfortable admitting and which, barring the events of this weekend, you probably would never have chosen to reveal at all. I know you. I know that, given a choice, you would rather do the right thing than what is right for you, and I had no place in interfering with that. I should have respected the choices you’ve made with your life. I’m the one who knew how much the spell was affecting our emotions and our ability to keep them contained, and I’m the one who pushed you for my own gratification. And that was unfair to you.”

“If you think you’re the only one who got any gratification, then you’re so wrong.”

Regina shook her head. “Not in that sense.” She smiled coyly. “Perhaps in that sense, too. I meant emotional gratification. I may have known how you felt about me, but I shouldn’t have pushed you to admit it just so that I could have the pleasure of hearing it.”

“When? When did you know?”

“Far too late to make any difference. Sometime after the Marian incident. When we were fighting back then, I could see myself in you. You looked at me the way I looked at you before.” Regina waved her free hand in the air.

“Before what?”

“Before I had to let you go. When I thought I could hide my feelings behind anger.”

“You mean after Neverland?” she said, but Regina ducked her head. “Before Neverland?”

“I swallowed a death curse for you. I don’t do that for just anyone. You are, in fact, the first and only.”

“But you did that for Henry.” Emma was stunned. If she was hearing correctly, then Regina had been in love with her for a very long time. How could she not have known? How could they both have been so stupid?

“No, I did that because a world without you in it is unthinkable, just as it was unbearable when I had that whole year without you.”

Emma cleared her throat, because she needed to say the hard stuff if she wanted to be worthy of Regina. But she was scared, and the only thing that ever calmed her when she was scared was Regina, so she reached out and placed her hand over Regina’s where it rested on her thigh, holding her breath to see if it would be pushed away. It wasn’t. Instead, Regina turned their joined hands, her fingertips tracing over the back of Emma’s as it had the other evening before they kissed.

“I only wanted to go back to New York because I’d heard that you’d given your actual heart to Robin, and that just confirmed it to me that there would never be a place for me in your life. And I didn’t think I could stay here and watch you be happy with someone else, someone who wasn’t me.” She couldn’t pretend that, more than two years later, it didn’t still hurt. She was the goddamned Saviour, and the very least she should have been able to do was keep Regina’s heart safe, but she hadn’t even been given the chance.

“Oh, my sweet Emma, you honestly think I would have chosen Robin and fairy dust and soulmates over you if I had known that you felt the same as I did?” Regina’s smile was radiant, even through the haze of Emma’s tears.

“I thought he was your second chance, your fresh start. And I know you believe in all that stuff, so I knew I couldn’t stand in the way of your destiny.”

“And your destiny was to destroy me, but, here I am, very much in one piece. I honestly don’t think destiny stands much of a chance against you, Emma Swan.” She looked at her intently. “I don’t want True Love or soulmates: I want you. I choose you because you are what I want, not because fate tells me so. I choose you because you and Henry are my whole world. I choose you because you are what my heart craves.”

“What was this morning about then?” That was the bit she still didn’t get.

“What I’ve been trying to tell you is that everything’s about choices, Emma. I chose to stand aside for you to be with Hook, and you chose to be with him. That was still the reality we awoke to this morning. Nothing that happened between us changed those facts.”

“But something must have changed, or else you wouldn’t be here.”

“Your father informed me that your heart was broken and that, as he knew I loved you as much as you loved me, it was my responsibility to fix that. He said some other things about foolish pride standing in the way of happiness and the importance of cherishing his daughter, but you know how he babbles on.” She shook her head with feigned annoyance, but Emma was pretty sure she didn’t really mind whatever lecture David had given her.

“My dad, huh?” She was definitely going to ask him about that later.

“He made some good points. It doesn’t happen often.” She tried to sound dismissive, but failed. “And I couldn’t really leave you wandering around with a broken heart and another chip on your shoulder. You are somewhat important to me, after all.” Despite her tone, her face was shining with love, love for her.

“So, do you know how the fairytale ends, then?” she said, biting her lip and hoping that it was the right question.

“I don’t honestly know,” Regina said. “I know the Queen tells her Knight that she wants to be with her, because her real family is the Knight and her son.” She leaned forward again, their foreheads touching, her breath warm against Emma’s cheek. “And she promises that, if given the chance, she will try to make the Knight feel special and loved and wanted, because the Queen is so in love with her that she can’t think of anything else.”

Emma let out a sigh of relief. She raised her hand and brushed her knuckles across Regina’s cheek, marvelling as her face softened and she leaned into the touch.

“But I don’t know what happens after that. How do you think it ends?” Regina asked.

“Maybe it never ends because there’s no such thing as a happy ending. There’s just everything that comes after, and that’s not always going to be good, never mind perfect, especially when we’re involved.” She smiled reassuringly when she saw a glimmer of doubt pass across Regina’s face. “But I think maybe the Knight tells the pirate to sling his hook—”

“You did not just make that joke,” Regina said, but there was a smirk pulling at the corners of her mouth.

“—and she finally gets her shit together, because she’s been ass-over-tit in love with the Queen for so long, but too stupid to do anything about it until it was almost too late. But that’s okay, because the Queen knows she’s an idiot and forgives her, and then the two of them make out like horny teenagers and choose to live messily ever after, struggling through together to make it as happy as possible, and fucking up sometimes, just like normal people.”

“Your language is atrocious, but I think I like that.” Regina’s hands moved from her lap to cradle Emma’s head, fingers burying themselves in her hair. Her face turned serious. “I am sorry that I let you think that any of this was your fault.”

“It’s okay.”

“It’s not. I knew how the spell was affecting us both, and I should have been honest with you. You have this stupid hero complex, and I played into that.”

“Honestly, it’s okay.” Like she cared about any of that when they were this close and things were looking pretty damn good for her.

“And I should have told you how I felt a long time ago.”

“Yeah, you should.” She inched forwards until their mouths were almost touching, her eyes fluttering shut.

Regina fisted Emma’s hair in her hand and jerked her head back. “And you should have done the same.”

Emma wanted to laugh. This contrary, fiery woman was who she’d fallen in love with, and she actually wanted to be with her and maybe if she’d stop talking they could get back to the things they were really good at, like kissing and stuff.

“Yeah, I should.” She nodded. “Okay, no more lies. No more secrets.”

“Some secrets.” Regina’s mouth was so close to hers that it was criminal that they weren’t kissing already.

“Some?”

“Some secrets are good.”

“Like?”

“Like what I have on under these clothes.”

Emma groaned. “That’s not fair.” Now she was imagining all the possible lingerie choices which could be hidden under layers of warmth.

“It’s only not fair, Emma,” Regina’s tongue snaked out and traced over Emma’s bottom lip, and there had to be some sort of law against using the name thing while distracting her like that, “if I have no intention of showing you later.”

And then they were kissing for the first time in far too fucking long, and it was still the most incredible thing ever. It was possession and love and belonging and passion and need. And it seemed to go on for hours, but Emma had felt starved of this, after only a day without it. When Regina eventually pulled back, reluctantly and slowly, Emma kept her eyes closed for the final few moments, imprinting the moment on her brain.

“You’ll definitely show me?”

Regina laughed, a low, slow chuckle, as she extricated herself from Emma’s grasp, standing and holding out her hand to her. “First, we need to have dinner and spend some time with our son, who is at home half-crazed out of his mind with worry for you.”

“Shit, I’m sorry. I never even thought.” Emma took Regina’s hand and let herself be pulled to her feet. And then she grinned all over again, because she was holding hands with Regina Mills and that was something she might get to do a lot in the future.

“Shh.” Regina placed a light kiss on her cheek. “It’s okay. I told him I’d bring his mother home with me, and I will.”

They walked towards Regina’s car in silence, smiling and blushing at each other like highschoolers on their first date. When they reached the Mercedes, Regina walked around to the passenger door and opened it for her. And, damn, that made Emma blush again, because Regina was looking at her like she was everything good thing in the world, and Emma had no doubt that she was looking much the same. But something was still tugging at her thoughts and she couldn’t stop herself from voicing it.

“But, you’ll definitely show me, right?”

Regina leaned in until their cheeks were pressed together, her mouth against Emma’s ear. “Not until you strip naked and beg me to fuck you, Saviour.” She stepped back, and she looked haughty and commanding and so fucking hot, because Regina Mills was still Regina Mills, and she could break the likes of Emma Swan with just a word or a glance which would forever make her weak at the knees. And she looked Emma up and down, her gaze possessive and still somehow tender. “Get in the car, Emma.”

She got in the car.

4 Comments

  1. Naimah
    Posted 20 August 2014 at 7.16pm | Permalink

    awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww

  2. Lyn
    Posted 21 August 2014 at 12.05pm | Permalink

    This was perfect:) probably one of the best fics you’ve ever written!

  3. Posted 10 October 2014 at 4.02pm | Permalink

    Woohooooooo! Yes, I finally caught up and I loved it! Well done, Dev! (Hand clapping)

  4. Posted 1 November 2014 at 6.28pm | Permalink

    Very nice! Thank you.

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