They all retreated in the Gold house for the night, Rumple barricaded it with a spell to keep them safe, but Emma couldn't sleep. Not when her entire family was within her grasp and yet they were looking at her the way they were.
She had tried to help, and she'd failed her son. the only thing paying over and over in her mind was that she abandoned her son again so that events could play out like she was used to…because she knew that playing with the past had almost undone everything when she arrived over 28 years ago. So, she tried to make sure things mostly went off without a hitch….and it'd been the wrong choice.
It was a mess.
Belle joined her a few moments later, she wrapped her arms around her friend and rested her head in Emma's shoulder
"I should have done things differently," Emma finally sighed.
"It's not your fault," Belle told her.
"Some of it was."
"Some of the things you did weren't bad, you know, that right?"
"Yeah, I know," being her friend was one of them, supporting her and making sure she was safe during the curse had been one of the few things she hadn't screwed up in some way.
"And you took care of Gold, I mean…. that's something, right?"
"I let what happen to Graham happen," she said, her voice thick with emotion, "I let what happened to Henry happen."
"There were limited options at the time."
"I still…. I hurt people."
"You saved me," Belle reminded her, "You saved the Greg kid and his father. You saved everyone when you went to fight Regina and Cora. Being a hero doesn't mean you get it perfect every time. You'll make mistakes.
"I just can't stop feeling sick inside," she curled up a bit.
Belle wrapped her arms around Emma and pulled her close, "It's going to be okay, it's going to be alright."
And finally, after being strong for so long, Emma broke down crying.
They were still sitting out there together talking when the familiar teal blue car drove up. Emma put her hand on Belle's when she saw their former old friend climb out of the car with Grace in tow. He shoved his hands in his pockets and walked up, looking meek, "Belle. Emma."
"Jefferson," Belle greeted.
"I saw you two were awake, so I wanted to come by and…and thank you for saving Grace."
Emma stood up, they'd had so many problems since she found out he was the reason Regina got ahold of the poisoned apple. But really, what ground did Emma have to stand on when she knew it was going to happen? When she handed her son over to the woman she knew would poison him.
The guilt clenched her chest and she stood up and walked forward. Jefferson shrank away as she came forward but she ignored it. She wasn't looking to hurt him, she wasn't looking for a fight.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
Tears filled his eyes, "Me too."
Emma went to wrap her arms around her friend. He broke down and returned the embrace.
"Come on," Emma temporarily weakened the barrier so he and Grace could enter, "It's time you met my family."
"They're probably all asleep."
"Bet not," Emma told him and went to lead him inside.
True enough, most everyone was awake. Except for Henry, who had probably passed out hours ago, his book in his hand.
Jefferson had been quiet when Emma brought him and his daughter in. Snow regarded him with caution, after all, he DID kidnap her and both Emma's to try and get his daughter back.
But Emma understood him. More than anyone, so she stood by him and made her introductions. The past was in the past, they'd all done things they weren't proud of for their children and the town. It was time to start over and try to be a family. It took a tense couple of moments, but Jefferson was accepted. Charming was the first, he graciously took him to the living room where everyone sat down, talked and just…waited.
"Rumple calls us twins, you know," the younger Emma told her as they stood next to each other, getting some snacks ready.
"I know, he gets quite gleeful about that," Emma went to toss some salad.
"I'm not sure I ever imagined having a twin that was actually a version of me from the future," the younger Emma said, "But considering it's Storybrooke, I'm more shocked that I'm shocked."
Emma looked over at Neal, "You…I…really did all this to him?"
Emma averted her gaze, "We must love him a lot, I guess."
"I guess," Emma looked at her younger self, "Still trying to work through it though, all these emotions going on through my head."
The younger Emma gave a cynical chuckle, "That almost makes me feel better. Knowing that you're still having problems with how you feel thirty years or so after this point of time."
"It's a complicated mess."
"And I think you just described our whole family."
"I think I just described this whole town, the Enchanted Forest, the family, the past, present, future and everything in between," Emma took a drink of the whiskey that Rumple had provided for her.
Rumple slipped into the room, Emma almost didn't catch him as he was off in the corner of her eye. He was supposed to be keeping watch outside. He kept his face passive but Emma had been cursed married to him and lived with him in the castle. Something was wrong.
He put his hand on her elbow, "Excuse me young Emma, I need to borrow your sister for a bit."
"We need to think of a name that you can call me without making me sound old," she muttered, "What's wrong?"
He put his hand on her elbow to guide her out, "She's here."
Emma put on her coat as she stepped outside, Rumple lagged as he shut the door, "Don't go past the line, Emma."
"Remember she and her mother broke your back."
"I was there."
"You say the word and I'll take care of her."
"No," Emma glanced over her shoulder, "Let's try to resolve this peacefully."
"That's over and done with."
"I want to try anyway."
"She. Broke. Your. Back," he snarled.
Emma remembered, she shouldn't even want to talk to Regina, and there was no way she would want to resolve this peacefully, but there was a kid up there sleeping who she already failed more than once, she wanted to try.
Regina waited until Emma walked up and stared her down, "Where's my mother?"
"Did you kill her?"
"No, because we know better than anyone the price of vengeance. I saw it in my timeline. It doesn't end well."
Regina clenched her jaw, "I'm leaving town."
"I think that'd be a good idea."
"I want to see Henry before I go."
"That one isn't."
Regina narrowed her eyes, "He's my son too. I raised him for 10 years."
And that was Emma's fault now, as well as Regina's, "You just tried to kill us. You took Jefferson's daughter hostage. In my timeline, I Would've tried to work it out with you but now I'm a little leerier of it because I know more of what you did. I know what you did to Henry, and Graham and Jefferson and everyone else here. And I know what you did to my family. There is no reason you could possible give me to let Henry near you after what you've done."
"I'm going into exile, isn't that what you wanted?"
"These days? More than anything. But you don't get a reward for something like that and Henry isn't a prize to be won."
"I just want to see him!" Regina snapped, "I want to see him and then I'll be gone."
"I don't know," Regina muttered.
Then it wasn't going to be Emma's problem. And it wasn't going to be the world's problem either because Regina didn't have her magic outside of Storybrooke. The world would be safe and so would the town. Though Emma doubted Regina would stray far, not if her son was here.
"I just need to clear my head," Regina said, "Find redemption and I don't think I can do that here."
Emma wondered if that was because she was aware of things Regina had done.
But Emma wasn't ignoring forgiveness, "Then I hope you find it. And if you do, then you'll be welcome back in the town."
Some relief seemed to cross Regina's face, "Thank you."
Emma thought better of her initial decision, "I'll go get Henry."
Henry stood in front of Regina for the first time since before he left for Manhattan, watching her warily. Either side of him stood both Emma's. Emma had made the rules abundantly clear. Henry was not to step over the line, not even to hug Regina. The only way Henry would step past the barrier spell was when Regina had packed her bags and money and left.
The rest of the family hung back, but all eyes were on them.
"Hi Henry," Regina started.
"Hi mom," he said.
Regina looked at both Emma's, "Can you give me a few moments alone with him?"
"No," the older Emma said
Regina huffed angrily, "Fine."
"Just say what you need to be said."
Regina fought tears and looked at her son, "Henry, I'm going away for a while."
Henry's eyes started to fill with tears too, "Where?"
"I don't know," Regina whispered, "Somewhere where maybe I can get some help.
He nodded, "Okay."
"I can't do it here, there's too many…reminders," she looked at all of them, "Temptations."
"Okay," Henry whispered again.
"It's not forever," Regina knelt down, "Just know that I love you. And I'm coming back. And hopefully I'll be in a better place than I am now. Because I tried it here and it didn't work."
She gave a glare to Emma as she said it. There was also another reason they both knew; two Emma's were bound to be ultimately more protective than one.
"I'll be waiting for you," Henry promised.
A tear slid down Regina's face and she smiled, "I'll make good on it this time, I promise."
"I hope so, mom," Henry whispered, "I can't do this again."
"I know," she whispered and went to reach out, "I'm really really sorry about what I've done. And I'm going to do what I can to make it better."
She stepped back and met the older Emma's eyes, "My mother knew everything, didn't she? Everything about Daniel and Snow."
"Yeah," Emma pulled Henry closer on instinct.
Regina took a few moments to process it and then waved her hand, disappearing in a cloud of smoke.
Henry hung his head, and in the arms of both his moms started crying.
The last thing Emma expected towards morning was to be approached by her parents as she stood by the doorframe of her son and watched her younger self finally get him to sleep. But here they were, still dressed from the day previous.
"Emma," her mother started.
"I just…want to make sure he's safe."
"I understand," Snow started and looked at her husband, "We just…..we wanted to see how you were."
"One broken back later, I'm still walking."
"We're not talking physically," Charming whispered.
Emma hesitated and then looked back to her son, "I used to tell myself that I didn't understand why you would do what you did when you put me in that wardrobe. Then 30 years later, I'm standing here looking at the son I gave up twice for his best chance and I keep feeling like maybe it wasn't."
A tear slipped down Snow's face, "That feeling never truly goes away."
"Yeah, I know."
"We all have a lot to make up for," Snow brushed a hand through Emma's hair gently, "And now maybe finally we can do it together, as a family."
The acceptance, the warmth in Snow's voice and her parent's eyes hit Emma harder than anything she had dealt with all day with the exception of her son. and she tried to hold herself together.
"It's going to work out," Charming whispered, "You'll see."
"Regina finally left this morning," Rumple told Emma as they walked the property together.
"I doubt we'll see the last of her."
"Hopefully it's in a better place than it was," Rumple glanced at her, "She broke your back and took Grace's heart, Emma. And what she did to Belle…. I'm not likely to forgive any of that."
You were my wife for 28 years for god's sake…and Belle's my true love."
"I never wanted any of you hurt, especially not by her."
"I know," Emma said for the third time.
A few moments of silence passed, "Are we safe?"
"I don't know," Emma told him, "For a while maybe? But enough things have changed that I don't know. I don't know if Pan will come, I don't know if the Wicked Witch will arrive or whatever else might be out there. I Just know that we did it, we saved Neal."
Rumple gave her a beaming grin, "We did it."
He wrapped his arms around her, Emma returned the embrace to her friend.
Rumple pulled back and tugged on her hair, "Look."
He showed her a small black box, Emma knew immediately what it was before she opened it.
Rumple was grinning like an idiot, "I'm going to ask her. As soon as things settle down a bit more, I'm going to ask her to marry me."
Emma grinned, "That's wonderful, Rumple."
"Of course, I wouldn't miss it," she smirked, "But it might be awkward, me being the ex and all."
He blushed, "I never wanted that!"
"Uh-huh," she teased.
"Emma! Emma Ruth Swan, I never wanted you in that way and you know it!" he followed after her.
"Twenty-eight years of my life," she threw up her hands dramatically.
"You're doing this on purpose! Why must you torment me so?"
"Because that's what ex-wives do!"
"Not all. Some are actually not pains in someone's ass."
"Or have children with the man from your first marriage but hey, I guess I'm not like other ex-wives."
"Must you say it like that?" he scowled.
"We're one random relative away from Jerry Springer," she shoved her hands in her coat and started walking back to the house, "Hey Rumple?"
"She hasn't said yes yet!"
"I think we both know she might as well have!" Emma called over her shoulder as she went back inside.
Neal was sitting at the table, orange juice in his hand, "Nice walk?"
Emma's heart started racing again as she took him in, she memorized his warm brown eyes and hair, the tired gaze in his eyes, the lines in his face….
"I-it's brisk out, might get an early winter."
He studied her, "oh"
They stood in silence before Neal tried again, "Looks like Jefferson's warming up to the other version of you."
"Is he?" Emma blushed, "Couldn't tell."
"Eh, I'm sure it's nothing."
More silence, Emma spoke up this time, "I should…go to bed, my sleep schedule's off-."
"I'm sorry my existence ruined your life."
Emma stopped, she turned and she looked at Neal, "Neal-."
He couldn't look at her, "You can deny it, but it's true, isn't it? My falling down a portal effected your birth. My actions landed you in jail and separated you from our son. and even after I was dead, you were suffering for it."
"It wasn't your fault."
Neal picked at a loose thread on his coat, "Feels like it."
Emma went to sit on the table, facing him. She realized then that she hadn't exactly thought about what she was going to say now that they were reunited. Maybe she never really thought they'd ever get to this point.
"Neal, your dad may have initially kept me there, but I only did what I did through choice, nothing of his doing forced me into anything. For better or worse….my decisions were mine. And I'll have to live with that for the rest of my life."
He finally looked up, "And you did all this for me? And Henry?"
"Why?" he asked, "After the trouble my mere existence causes you?"
"Because when I met Henry, he didn't have anyone outside Regina. And so, I wanted him to have the biggest family I could give him," she glanced down, "And because I lost you too many times and I love you."
The declaration was hard enough, so Emma wasn't looking at him as she said it. And when she said it, she felt naked and exposed in front of him, waiting for his reaction.
He gently took her hand and kisses the back of it, "I love you too, Emma. I always have."
"With that admission, Emma pulled him up, he stood and wrapped his arms around her waist. Emma went to touch his face before she kissed him. It was their first kiss in over 10 years for him and 30 years for her. And as soon as he kissed her, it felt like the floodgates were open and she was pulling him closer to her.
"We still have a lot to talk about," he whispered when they finally stopped.
"We have the rest of our lives to figure it all out," she promised him, and pulled him back against her.