A/N: Sorry for the long-ish wait, I've been swamped with work. I should have the next part up come wednesday or so, next week, if all goes well.
"Did you really think I wouldn't find out?" Regina stated coldly and walked further into the room.
Her lips curled up in a sneer as she watched Belle struggle with the magic that had a hold on her. The woman's eyes were wide with panic and her hands were clutching her throat as she gasped for air.
For a moment Regina felt the rush of power which came from letting her magic have free reign. It whispered things to her. Seductive little things. There was the ever-present darkness within and she could feel it now, how close she was to taking out all of her recent frustrations on the woman in front of her. It would be so easy.
It was like a cold shower, the thought of losing everything she had fought so hard for these past few years. She released Belle barely a second later, though the anger still remained.
"Was that your grand plan all along? Deceiving me in an attempt to find out what I knew perhaps? I assume you just handed over the books yourself, or pointed out their existence to Rumple, isn't that so, dear?"
Though it was strange she thought, as she watched Belle cough and clear her throat while maneuvering herself into a sitting position against the wall. Strange how during the few encounters they had had since they returned from their homelands, she hadn't been able to detect anything duplicitous.
Belle's eyes fixed her with an accusing glare as she rubbed at her throat. "What the hell is your problem, Regina? He is dead." Her voice hitched and tears shone in her eyes, but Regina wasn't deterred by them. She had already been deceived by this woman once.
"Do you truly expect me to believe you had no knowledge of him being alive?"
"Why are you doing this? Are you purposely trying to hurt me? Again?" Belle countered, her voice sounding stronger than before. She rose up and faced Regina, her posture reminding Regina of someone spoiling for a fight. "Haven't you wrought enough damage already? I don't want to think of that day, of that moment, it's enough knowing I'll never see him again. Can't you just...leave me alone."
"You.." Regina faltered upon studying Belle more closely. She looked miserable and the way she had her arms wrapped around herself, looking away from Regina, bottom-lip quivering imperceptibly..it made Regina all the more aware that Belle wasn't capable of faking her reactions like that. "You really do not know do you?"
"I don't.." Belle was cut off by the sound of the library doors crashing open loudly.
"Regina, stop!" Emma yelled as she ran through the door, her gun raised half way towards Regina.
Giving Emma an unimpressed look, Regina turned to face her. "Stop what?" She questioned, a tinge bemused by Emma's darting eyes and the way she licked her lips nervously. "And would you please lower the gun before you accidentally shoot off a lamp."
"Belle.." Emma questioned, while keeping the gun raised and ignoring Regina, "are you alright?"
"I..think so, I'm not sure what happened. One moment I'm working on shutting down the library for the day the next Regina is there and choking me while accusing me of things."
"Is this how things were before, Sheriff?" Regina queried, her level of annoyance with the situation mounting with the way Emma continued to threaten her. "Storming into buildings and drawing guns on me?"
"That's not…" Emma protested, but then she lowered the gun finally, sighed and leaned against the wall nearest to her. "I might have known you before, but I've come to realize I really don't know this new you after all. Because right now your behavior is erratic, and I just don't know what the hell to make of it sometimes, okay? Jesus Christ, Regina, I had 3 different phone-calls from people thinking you were going to murder Belle. What the hell was I even supposed to think? Fuck…" she muttered and suddenly slid down the wall and sprawled into a heap on the floor without a warning.
It was all too fast for Regina to react and she was only able to watch helplessly as Emma laid on the floor and groaned. The gun was laying a few paces away from her, having hit the ground and then slid away towards the edge of a small counter.
"Emma?" Belle asked, her tone laced with concern as she approached Emma.
Regina in turn felt rooted to the spot. Because her mind was still stuck on what Emma had told her and she was avidly trying to understand why the words stung so much. Her annoyance had faded completely, replaced by concern and there were the lingering thoughts about how their interactions might have been, before her memories had been tampered with.
"Sorry," Emma apologized as she propped herself up and rested the back of her head against the wall. "I'm really tired," she muttered while pressing one of her hands against her forehead, "and I guess the adrenaline rush wore off."
Emma's eyes were blood-shot, and she did look exhausted. It made Regina wonder when Emma had last had a decent night's worth of sleep. Or eaten properly for that matter. Emma certainly looked too thin and her face was drained of all color, as if she would faint again the moment she stood up.
"You do not exactly look fit for duty, Sheriff. Perhaps take a few days off, before you actually do shoot something or someone the next time you go and tote that gun of yours around?"
Snorting, Emma's tired eyes found her for a moment as she slowly stood up on wobbly legs. "That's kind of rich coming from the Mayor of the town who assaults people for no apparent reason now is it? You have a hole in your memories, Regina, I wish you would just ask people what it is that you are missing, before jumping to any conclusions."
"That's not what this was about."
"No?" Emma questioned, her face scrunching up in confusion as she fished the gun from the ground and placed it back into the holster hanging on her hip.
"No," Regina echoed, "Tinker Bell called me earlier, the fairies finally woke up from their slumber. A few of them saw who casted the sleeping spells on them, and they all claim it was Rumplestiltskin."
Regina watched as Emma regarded her incredulously. "That's not possible," she muttered, "we saw him die."
"Not die; disappear," Regina corrected, "it was only assumed that he had died. Honestly, it's not even that surprising, if anyone knows how to cheat death, it's that smarmy little imp."
Though reason for him being involved in trying to prevent her from regaining her memories eluded her. She was however convinced his sudden resurfacing back into the land of the living couldn't be a coincidence, all things considered.
"He..he r-really is alive?" Belle exclaimed shakily, her eyes wide and filled with unshed tears. And whatever doubt Regina had about Belle's involvement in a conspiracy against her vanished upon seeing the woman walk towards the chair behind her desk and collapsing onto it. Belle was trembling all over and crying and the only word she finally managed to utter after a few seconds was a quiet, "how?"
"I.." Regina faltered now that she no longer had her anger to fuel her actions and sharpen her focus. Rumple being alive threw her for a loop. "I really don't know actually. I can only assume it might have something to do with the year we spend in The Enchanted Forest."
"So it was him that destroyed the potion and the lab's equipment?" Emma questioned. Regina noticed how her fingers were splayed across her temples and every now and then she was rubbing them as if plagued by a splitting headache. "I know he has pulled some crap in the past, but this just doesn't seem like something he would do."
"It is not," Belle said, while wiping away some of the remaining tears from her cheeks. "I feel like something is wrong about all this. He wouldn't have let me keep on believing he was dead."
The memory of him dying was one that felt unclear to Regina. As if she was traversing through a thick fog that obscured her vision completely. But she did recall the moment, she recalled him disappearing, as well as the dagger he had stabbed both his father and himself with.
"I don't know the specifics, but I have this suspicion the Wicked Witch might be in the middle of this mystery too. Whomever brought him back likely acquired his dagger in the process and all signs so far do point towards the witch. Using Rumple to do her dirty work keeps her identify a mystery. It also makes her a lot more powerful and dangerous," Regina added as she paced around while trying to make sense of things.
If it was true that Rumple's dagger was in the hands of the Witch, then she needed some time and space to think of a plan to wrest control of it from her. She also knew that she might need Belle's help yet again, because if anyone knew about a possible failsafe that Rumple might have should the dagger fall into the wrong hands, it would be her.
"Clear something up for me," Emma spoke up after a moment. "If she has been controlling Gold since all of you came back, why didn't she use him to make a move before? What's her grand plan Regina? What is she after?"
"Is this your way of accusing me about having incurred that Witch's wrath somehow?" Regina queried, eyes narrowing to slits as she put her hands into her sides.
"I'm not.." Emma shook her head and pursed her lips into a thin line while pinching the bridge of her nose. "I'm too tired to argue about this. I'm on your side Regina, memory gaps or not, I'll always be on your side. But I just can't deal with the way you keep assuming the worst of me. I know this whole Rumplestiltskin situation is urgent, but I'm dead on my feet and all I want right now is to go home and try and get a few hours of shuteye. So if Your Majesty doesn't mind, that's exactly what I'm going to do."
Squaring her jaw, Regina regarded Emma quietly for a while before sighing softly, "fine, I suppose I am feeling relatively exhausted as well. Discussing a plan of approach can wait until tomorrow. I need some time to peruse some of my spellbooks in any case, there might be a way to trace down Rumplestiltskin because of the unique magic he uses."
"Rumple once told me there's a way to temporarily break the control the dagger has on him. I will need to check his vault again for that," Belle spoke up.
"Well, good, that's sorted," Emma remarked cheerily as she rubbed at her face again. "I hear my bed calling. Oh and before I forget, I'm giving you a ride home in the patrol-car, Regina."
"There are likely people out there who have no idea whatsoever of what has transpired in here, I just want to show any curious onlookers that everything was handled. That's all, okay? If you use magic to vanish again, then we'll get that whole gossip circuit starting up and seriously, it's bad enough trying to placate a cranky former queen slash mayor, who has the memory-equivalent of swiss cheese. I draw the line right now at dealing with an angry mob with pitchforks rushing the station or your house while demanding justice, or your head on a silver platter for that matter."
"Cranky, truly?" Regina repeated a tinge annoyed at being described that way. "You can also not be seriously suggesting I should trust you to drive me while you look like you are about to faint again at any moment."
Emma shrugged while stifling a yawn. "Suit yourself. Just don't expect me to come to your house to disperse whatever crowd might have gathered there, my phone will be off the hook and I'll put the mobile on silent. Besides, if me driving is really such a unovercomable problem, why don't you drive?"
"The patrol-car?" Regina stated incredulously, "you must have hit your head when you fell down before, if you think I will drive in that car."
"You did before you know? Granted, I was drunk and you didn't want me to puke all over the interior of your fancy Benz…"
"You weren't drunk," Belle chimed in, "you were completely hammered."
"Fine, you can drive," Regina gave in. Partially because the whole conversation about events that she couldn't recall was unnerving her and partially because she really wasn't looking forward to having people thinking the worst of her again. She needed their cooperation while performing her duties as a Mayor after all. And Emma was right about the gossip circuit, all it would take was a certain dwarf catching wind of it, before the whole town would know.
Nodding wordlessly, Emma walked towards the door. She glanced backwards when she noticed Regina hadn't made a move to follow after her.
"I..have something I need to do," Regina said, while evading Emma's questioning look. "You can go on ahead, I'll be outside in a moment."
Regina waited until she heard the sound of the door closing again before turning towards a waiting Belle.
"I know what you are going to say, you know?" Belle spoke up before Regina could even open her mouth to utter a single syllable. "I'm pretty sure that you want to apologize for what happened before and perhaps you should but.." Belle trailed off while looking down at one of her hands tracing the hardcover of a book lying on the desk. "I would rather have your help in finding Rumple and figuring out if he is really being controlled. I would appreciate it if you could help with finding a way to bring him back to me. That's all I really want right now Regina, to just have him back with me."
"I understand," was all that Regina said after a seconds of silence. Because regardless of the complicated nature of her relationship with Rumplestiltskin, the idea of someone having control over his every move put her ill at ease. She didn't like him, sometimes hate was a better way to describe it when it came to him, but she also didn't like the idea of the Witch having yet another one-up on them because she had the dagger. "I am still apologizing for my actions however, in addition to providing what help I can with finding out about Rumple's whereabouts."
Belle smiled at her, though Regina recognized the sadness in the gesture. "Thank you," she said. Then, after studying Regina for a moment which went on far too long and unsettled her far too much for her liking, she spoke up again, "Emma is right you know? You should talk to people and find out what you are missing. You should talk to her. She's..not been herself for a while now, and neither has Henry."
"I might," Regina said, as she turned towards the direction of the door. But not right now, she added mentally.
"Hey," Emma greeted her as she stepped outside the library. She was slumped against the door of the drivers side of the patrol-car and to Regina's great annoyance, following her every move with her eyes. "Ready to go?"
"Yes." Her answer was clipped and meant to shut off any possible avenues of conversation Emma might pursue.
"I uhm.." Emma said as she opened the door of the car, and leaned on it slightly awkwardly. "I think it's a good thing you did in there."
"Were you listening in on the conversation somehow?"
"No..I didn't need to," Emma said, and the smile she gave Regina was knowing and blinding in it's intensity. It also made her feel thoroughly uncomfortable.
"Just drive, dear," Regina snapped as she opened the door of the passenger side. The smile faded again as fast as it had appeared and Emma didn't speak another word to her during the drive to her house.
She didn't see Emma again for a few days, not until she stopped near the grocery store on main street and spied her exiting one of the other stores with Henry in tow.
It made her retract her hand from the handle of the door of her car. Made her stop rummaging around in her handbag for her wallet and watch as they walked along the curb.
Emma was smiling and Henry was poking her side a few times and saying something, which made Emma burst out laughing. It was the most carefree Regina had ever seen Emma, the most carefree that she could remember. There was no mask, no holding back of any kind and Regina wondered if this was the way Emma Swan had been before.
Then Emma noticed her sitting in the car and the mask was back instantly. She looked at Regina's direction for a brief moment, before averting her eyes and walking towards the general direction of Granny's. But not before Regina had seen the emotions residing in Emma's eyes. The hurt and sadness that no mask was able to hide.
And Regina wondered as she watched them walk away.
"Still haven't learned how to knock I see?" Regina replied without looking up from the paperwork she was signing.
"Look," Emma started as she finally walked to the front of the desk, her presence throwing a shadow across the surface of it and making Regina glance upwards. "Is there some particular reason you are freezing me out? Because I know you talked to Belle a few times."
"I have," Regina answered noncommittally. "There isn't any real progress to report, besides what Belle likely has told you already. That isn't the real reason why you are here though, am I wrong?"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Emma said in a defensive tone. Her eyes were following Regina with hawk like precision, as if she was weary about something.
"It means that I find your presence here interesting. You hide a lot of yourself whenever you are near me, but yet you keep searching me out."
Sighing, Emma turned away from the desk and walked towards the window. "It's because I still care about you Regina. And as I said before, I do miss you. There isn't some kind of switch I can flip to suddenly forget everything you mean to me."
Standing up, Regina walked up to Emma and glared at her, irritated by the way she was actively avoiding Regina's eyes.
"Every time you look at me, it's like you are subconsciously bracing yourself for something. You claim I shouldn't expect the worst of you, but yet you aren't being truthful either. Tell me Emma, is it just my lack of memories, or have things always been this way? Have you always been hiding things from me?"
"Seriously?!" Emma questioned in a pissed off tone. She turned to face Regina, eyes shooting fire and her face contorted in rage.
"You don't have a fucking clue about any of this Regina. You don't know. Yes I'm bracing myself every single time, because I don't know what to expect of you. One moment I think I'm actually getting somewhere with you, and the next you turn completely cold or insult me. I don't hide things, I hide myself Regina. I hide ME, from you. Because every time you say or do something to hurt me, it cuts me like a knife. It cuts me so deeply that it physically hurts me and I try so damned hard all the time to just swallow it all back down. To just continue for another day."
"Is that supposed to mean some.."
Emma grabbing her wrists and pinning her against the wall took her completely by surprise.
"You think you can lie about that?" Emma barked out a laugh, though it came out all bitterly. "You want to know how much I am really holding back all the time?" She leaned in until she was scantily a hairsbreadth away and Regina couldn't help but flick her eyes to Emma's lips. "I want to touch you every time I see you, I want to be able to kiss you again, so much. Even now. So yes I'm hiding, I'm holding back, because I know that I can't do any of that," Emma finished in a whisper like tone.
Regina was too stunned to react. Too stunned even to notice her wrists were free again, at least until the tips of Emma's fingers glided across her cheeks and her hands framed Regina's face.
"You know this would be so much easier for me to deal with if I wasn't completely head over heels in love with you," Emma said.
There was no mask seen at that moment and Emma just looked at her. Looked right through Regina. Then Emma's eyes filled with grief, and shaking her head softly, she walked out of the office without another word.