Phew, it only took two weeks for my muse to recover from the Jolly Roger episode. Keep in mind, I wrote this story before we learned about Hook's kiss curse and Zelena's plans, so I suppose the rest of this will be slightly AU. There will be one more chapter after this one that wraps things up from Hook's perspective, and I hope to have that one up before the next episode on Sunday. I can't believe it's already almost done, and as always, thanks so much to everyone that reads this, and I hope you enjoy!
Emma turned, and Zelena stood just behind them, her golden-red hair and shining emerald standing as colorful contrasts against her black-encased body. She was smiling broadly.
"Oh, I see you managed to rouse the pirate. Perhaps you have a heart after all, little Savior. How about I have a little peek for myself," she grinned, moving towards her.
Regina was beside Emma in an instant, Killian and David behind them.
"Well it's about time, Greenie," Regina said, lips turning up and eyes widening manically. She looked genuinely thrilled to see her, even if it was for all the wrong, murderous reasons.
"Rude as ever, dear sister," Zelena replied tightly, "though I gather you've gotten your memories back. Due to the breaking of your sleeping spell, I imagine. Shame. I didn't think that one through well enough…but, oh well. I don't suppose it really matters now."
Emma just barely managed to jump back in time as Zelena suddenly tossed a spell at Regina, the woman beside her just barely managing to deflect it.
"Swan, get down!" she heard Hook yell from behind, and she glanced quickly back. Flying monkeys were now descending from the sky, terrible noises screeching from their razor mouths. She looked up to see that one was headed straight for her, the wind from its wings making her eyes water. She didn't even have enough time to aim her gun before a hand was gripping her wrist and yanking her backwards, onto the ground. A flash of steel deftly sunk into the beast's chest, knocking it into the dirt before David stabbed it through. Hook was laying beside her in the dirt, partially covering her, and she could feel the ragged gasps leaving him as his face twisted.
"Not again – no, what did you do?!" she shouted, hands roaming all over the jacket covering him and searching for new wounds, bite marks, anything –
"Swan, I'm fine. Other than the lingering ill-effects of Zelena's ministrations…"
The vice on her chest eased. "Get up, then!" she shouted, relief not a luxury she could afford, utterly hating the way she still shook. "We have to get under the cover of the trees – David!"
Emma looked up, watching as his sword sunk into another monster, and she then promptly emptied her gun's clip into another one that approached from David's back. The fact that these were likely bitten townspeople wasn't something she could let herself consider. They were trying to kill her, her family, and she couldn't let them.
"Come on," David said, watching their backs as Emma and Killian both stood. "Robin's men are keeping the rest occupied. We need to see if Regina needs help."
Emma looked around the field, noticing for the first time that their back-up had materialized from the woods. Robin's men and other townspeople were shooting arrows into the sky with the likes of longbows and crossbows alike. Skewered monkeys were raining down like fucking feathered meteorites. Regina and Zelena were off to their left, and Gold had finally materialized, misery and anger etched into his weathered face as he waited for orders.
It was now or never. She just had to trust David, had to trust Regina. Everyone would die if she didn't do it. There wasn't any option left, and time was fast running out.
"Regina's fine," she said, loading another clip into her gun, just in case. "You two need to get under the cover of the trees. There's something I have to do first."
"What are you talking about? This isn't the plan – "
"David," Emma cut him off, her eyes flashing between him and Hook. God she hoped she was strong enough. "Yes it is. If I don't cast the spell, then we can't separate Gold from the dagger. Belle can't do it by herself."
"Why didn't you say something before?" David asked, his voice sharp and too knowing.
But she didn't have time to stand there and explain. "Please take care of him," she said, nodding towards Hook, her thoughts straying to Henry. "I have to go."
"Swan – "
She started running. She bolted across the field, the sounds of the fight dimming behind her. She thought for a moment that she heard a voice calling her back, and perhaps it was just her imagination when she heard his accent tempering the edges of her name. God but she hoped she was strong enough.
No one followed her as she weaved her way into the forest, sprinting north to the large oak tree where Belle was supposed to be waiting. Emma was huffing, breath burning in her chest as she pushed herself to run faster. Her legs were on the verge of giving out when the oak and Belle finally came into view.
"Emma!" Belle called, scrambling off her knees as she finally came to a breathless halt under the tree's arcing branches.
"Okay. Tell me what to do," she gasped, bent over double with her hands on her thighs. It looked like a circle had been burned into the ground at the massive trunk's base, two short red candles burning brightly in the center. A dagger with a long, black as night blade lay beside them.
"Wait, Emma," Belle paused, resting a tentative hand on her arm. "I want Zelena gone just as much as the rest of you, maybe more, but are you sure you want to do this? You could die, Regina could die, and I'd never forgive myself if I helped you – "
"Belle," Emma said, straightening. "This isn't just about us. If we don't stop her here and now, countless other people will die. I can't…I won't just let that happen. No matter the consequences."
It wasn't about her. It was never about her. This was what she was made for. She was the Savior, a tool against dark magic. It didn't matter beyond that. She was done fighting, done pretending that she could actually have a normal life and be happy. Whatever this did to her, whatever effect the spell would have, it was worth it if it saved the people around her. She was the Savior, hardwired through and through.
"I'm so sorry, Emma," Belle whispered, pulling her into a surprisingly strong embrace. "Whatever I can do to help, I will."
Emma gently disengaged herself, noting the unshed tears in Belle's eyes, and tried to offer a comforting smile. "Tell me what to do first."
Belle explained the parameters of the spell, spoke a few words in a language Emma couldn't even begin to comprehend, and positioned her in a kneeling position just in front of the candles and dagger, in the middle of the circle.
"Okay, here is a vial of Regina's blood," she said, handing Emma the glass tube, "and you'll need to cut yourself with that dagger to draw your own blood. Once you do, drip your blood into one candle's flame while dripping Regina's blood into the other one. Make sure you get it into the fire."
"What about Leo's blood? This won't affect him like it does us, will it?" she asked, a lick of fear suddenly crawling up her heart.
"No, it won't. I used his blood to help create the circle. His purity is what will hold the shadow in our control, but according to the book it doesn't bind him in the way it will bind you and Regina."
Emma took a breath, trying to steady the tremors that were beginning to take hold in her body. She grasped the handle of the dagger, the black blade dull and matte. No light reflected off of it.
"Here goes nothing," Emma sighed, but she paused before dragging the blade over her palm. "Can I…can I ask you to do something for me, please? If this doesn't go a hundred percent the way we want."
Belle nodded, her eyes glistening.
"Tell David, Mary Margaret, Henry…Leo when he's old enough, tell them that I love them, and I'm sorry, but I don't regret it. Tell them it was my choice, and I'd make the same one a thousand times over if it meant that they'd be safe. Tell them…tell them to be happy."
"I will," she said, and Emma could hear the effort she put into keeping her voice steady.
"And, tell Hook – Killian – tell Killian that I love…that he…" Emma couldn't find the words, even now. She more than loved him. He was everything. He'd become her world, her lifeline, her strength. She fought back the tears and cleared her throat. "Tell Killian that he needs to be happy, too. Tell him to smile more, and to be there for Henry. He can't give up, because he has to take care of him. He has to stay good, because Henry needs him. Okay?"
"I swear," Belle said. Emma nodded, fighting to steady her hand.
"Okay then." She straightened her back, and braced for the pain as she swept the sharp blade over her skin, over the old scar from the beanstalk. She clenched her fist as blood quickly welled in her palm, and readied the vial of Regina's blood. With shaking arms, she held her hands over the twin flames, and let the blood flow. The fire danced as the dark blood pattered down.
Emma pulled back when Regina's vial was empty. They waited. Belle's fists were clenched tightly as she kneeled just on the outer rim of the circle, and Emma took the bandana from her pocket and wrapped it around her hand tightly, staunching the flow.
She took one breath, two, three, and the flame began to burn brighter, taller. She backed away when the fire rocketed up towards the sky, casting a black, opaque shadow on the oak tree's trunk. Emma scrambled out of the circle as the shadow began to move, and then bleed together into a humanoid shape. Belle stood beside her as the flames slowly retreated, and the shadow remained.
In a gust of white-hot wind, Emma's hair blew wildly out behind her as the shadow floated just in front of her face, its black hands groping for her bandaged hand. In a sudden blast of intense, searing pain, Emma screamed and watched in open fear as the shadow enveloped her hand, burned her hand until her legs failed and crumpled beneath her. The next thing she was aware of was Belle gripping at her shoulder, shaking her gently.
"Was…was that it?" she asked, the pain abating. She drew her hand up to inspect it, and saw that the bandana was completely gone, a black circle of charred flesh stamped over the wound.
"Emma, it was only marking you. It was marking you so that when it's done, it can exact payment. It'll do the same to Regina."
Fuck. This was really happening. It was done. She was done. She'd saved them, all of them.
"I want to see them," she suddenly said. "I want to see them kill Zelena." Emma packed a handful of snow over the still burning wound. "We need to get back."
Together, they ran towards the clearing, listening for the sounds of battle, and after a moment a high-pitched, chilling scream sent birds flapping to the sky above them.
"What in the world…"
"It was Zelena," Emma said, a thrill sending chills across her skin. "We have to hurry."
After a moment, the trees thinned enough so that the clearing was open before them, and the first thing Emma saw was a twisted, writhing body suspended in mid-air.
Regina and Gold stood below, their hands outstretched towards it. Emma's gut clenched when she realized what they were doing as Zelena's limbs stretched so far away from her body. Too far…
"Belle, you probably don't want to watch this," Emma said, quickly turning to her as the realization hit. "Gold wouldn't want you to…"
"No," Belle shook her head, nearly transparent irises rimming her thick, black pupils. "I won't shy away from who he is. I helped make this possible, after all. I knew he'd kill her. I want him to."
"But like this?"
Emma wanted to flinch away, her insides convulsing horribly. She didn't want the last thing she ever saw to be Zelena's body ripping apart, and yet this was her doing, as well. Emma had never been a coward in all her life, and she wouldn't be one now. She had to make sure that they had been successful, that this was all worth it. She had to know that they would all finally be safe.
With sickening, wet, popping, crunching sounds, Regina and Gold finally managed to achieve their combined goal, and the screams stopped.
"You know what to do with the pieces?" Emma heard Regina ask, and she saw Gold nod.
"What…" Emma started, and found her throat filled with bile. "Do you know…?"
"They have to spread her body parts in seven different running rivers. It's the only way to guarantee that her death is final," Belle answered, her voice eerily flat. "I remember from before. We discovered that in the missing year."
David was calling to them, and Emma quickly tore her gaze from the nightmarish sight. He was jogging towards them, and Killian was limping along beside him. The breath left her chest in a rush, the relief immeasurable and freeing. She swallowed back the bile and felt her muscles unclench. It was okay. Everything was okay now. Even as she felt the brand on her palm begin to burn anew, she couldn't help the smile that spread her lips. God she didn't want to leave them. She wanted to run towards them, to tell Killian and David that she loved them, that she was so goddamned sorry –
But her time was up.
Regina was facing her now, her eyes wide and afraid as she focused on something behind her. Gold was the picture of stoicism, even as Belle ran towards him. He inclined his head once towards Emma, before lowering his eyes. David and Killian pulled up short, and the looks on their faces just hurt too much, so she closed her eyes.
"No!" she heard Killian scream, his voice cracking and broken. She hated that this was going to hurt him, after everything he'd been through, everything he'd endured for her. She didn't want him to be alone again, she wanted him to be happy and laughing and smiling and not screaming her name like that. Her eyes were burning almost as much as her hand now, but she didn't care. Emma couldn't feel a thing except for the way her heart beat, pounded for him…
That is, of course, until the shadow finally forced itself under her skin and set her entire existence ablaze. She abruptly felt it merge with her body, and it was like she was exploding from the inside, out. It was ripping her life away, her essence. Everything she was, everything that made up Emma Swan was leaking into the inky blackness, pouring out of her. She couldn't feel her heart pounding anymore, she couldn't feel the ground beneath her, she couldn't feel her body. There was only fire, a sucking abyss, and a dimming light. She was weightless, nothing. The light dimmed and dimmed, like a candle at the end of its wick.
Something was roaring in her ears, and if she had a body she would have tried to turn away. It was an awful sound, something that seemed to cut her even deeper than the flaming pain. It was wrong, so damned wrong. Nothing should ever sound like that, he should never ever sound like that…
The sound eventually quieted until it was only a gentle breeze against her cheek, something soft and fluttering. "Emma, Emma, Emma."
It was still wrong, it still hurt, and she wanted to fix it. She needed to fix it. He needed her.
Finally, as the light flickered out, and there was nothing but smoke filtering through the fingers of her grasping consciousness, Emma felt the pain leave her.
Her eyes opened, seeking something beyond the darkness. She felt heavy and cold and aching, but her heart was beating again, and she could feel the thrum of life in her veins. It was a moment before she realized that something was wrapped around her, something strong and shaking.
"I'm okay," she whispered, bemused at the way her throat burned around the simple phrase. The shaking stopped.
"Emma?" Killian shifted her away from his chest, and she was met with the most perfect sight. His eyes were bright, and while his face was slack at first, it only took a moment before the worry lines eased and his lips parted in surprise.
"Sorry about that," she whispered, reaching a hand upwards to anchor in his hair. She pulled him down until she felt his lips and breath merge with hers, soft and warm and yes, still alive. Both of them.
His arms tightened, holding her against him as he kissed her softly back. Emma still wanted more, though. She needed him to hold her closer, kiss her harder, but she realized with a pang that he was holding back. When she tried to slip her tongue beyond his lips, he began to pull away. Frustrated, she gripped his hair harder, because damnit they were both alive! Against all odds, after two near-death experiences, they were finally here and alive, the witch in pieces…
"Emma…" he said, his hand forcing her shoulder back. He winced with the effort, and Emma remembered that he was still hurt, that he needed a hospital and Regina…
"Oh God, I'm sorry. Killian – "
David's arms replaced Killian's before she could process that she was being handed off, and he nearly squeezed the breath out of her. "We thought you were gone, Emma. Why didn't you tell us? Why?"
He was silent after that, though, not prompting her any further for an answer. It only took her a moment longer for her to register his tension, to realize that something was still very wrong.
"David…" she asked, turning her head to see where Regina had been standing. "Is Regina okay? What happened?"
He didn't answer, and it was then that Emma saw the group of Robin's men huddled about something in the distance, each one on a knee with their hat clutched in their hands.
"No…" she said, the word painfully weak. "She couldn't have…she said she thought she had a good chance of…"
"She knew from the start that she wouldn't survive," Gold said from above her, his voice low and...sad.
"No. No, that's impossible. She said she would come back for Henry. I believed her. She wasn't lying, damnit. She said she had a good chance – "
"She did," Gold agreed, "but it wasn't good enough. I imagine she was being truthful when she said she wouldn't leave him, though. She just won't be there in a physical sense. Regina gave up her life to save him, and the rest of us. She will never be forgotten."
"No, just stop," she said, the waver leaving her voice. "I'm not about to sit here and listen to funeral eulogies when we don't even know that she's really dead." Emma tried to stand, found that her legs were less than reliable, so David braced her from behind. She managed it after a moment, and he didn't try to stop her when she walked forward, didn't complain when she made him make a path through Robin's men.
Emma knelt beside Regina, touched her fingers to her neck to search for a pulse, and found nothing. Her dark eyes were open, focused to the sky as snow began to fall softly, landing on her black lashes and white skin. The flakes didn't melt.
"What about true love's kiss? We just need to get her to Robin, right?" Emma said, even though the momentary hope began to fade as Regina's eyes remained wide, large, and unblinking. "I mean, this is like a curse, isn't it? Henry could do it too. Can't they just – "
"I imagine Robin will want to try, and even Henry, but I think we need to accept the fact that Regina –"
David couldn't finish, and Emma screwed her eyes shut, the ache in her bones and skin and chest pulsing and growing. She needed to switch gears, to think about something else. There was still so much more to worry about, and all she wanted to do was curl up and process what was happening, what this meant for her and Henry, the grief that was edging in on her composure. She motioned for David to help her stand again, and she turned away. Killian stood just beyond, and the way his eyes avoided hers made the ache in her chest swell. She closed her eyes again.
"Killian needs a doctor," she said to David, "and I can't heal him like this. Regina can't – "
The words caught. She took a breath, and tried a different sentence. "There are injured people we can help now. We have to get the hospital back up and running. That's our number one priority."
"I agree," David said, nodding beside her. "And you and Killian are patients number one and two. Robin's men will take care of Regina."
"As will I," Gold said, and Emma opened her eyes to see him kneeling beside Regina now, hand moving over her eyelids as he pressed them shut. "It's not escaped me that I have you and her to thank for my freedom. My debt will be paid in whatever way I'm capable. I'll see to it that Regina is properly cared for."
Emma simply nodded, too damn exhausted to summon up any argument. She was tired of making decisions, sick to death of everything. This wasn't the victory she'd wanted. She couldn't understand why everything was still so fucking messed up, why she wasn't allowed to just enjoy that her job was done and everyone was safe. They'd beaten the witch, they'd saved a whole goddamned town, and yet the moment of peace she'd felt when she knew Zelena was gone had lasted only seconds.
When David scooped her into his arms, she held on with everything she had as he began walking away, the battered group following behind them, Killian's steps uneven at her side.