Title: Gifted or Cursed Memories
Author: InBetweens (Tweenlove_n_hate)
Rating: T for language to M for sexual situations
Plot: With little time and nothing more Regina can do, when she gifts Emma and Henry with new memories of the last 12 years she fails to realize what she's giving them will change everything about their future. This is a take on the new cliché 'what if' AU involving the memories Regina gives to Henry and Emma at the end of Season 3A. This story deals with mentions of PTSD and dissociative fugue disorder.
'Life as she Knew it'
"Regina! You can't just…" Emma gestured violently through the air, unable to complete her thought. She had no defense against the anger rolling off the brunette in waves.
"Just what Emma? Hmm?" Regina tilted her head to the side, her eyes ablaze as she stood half a room away from the bounty hunter. "Get angry that you're bringing my son to see that witch!? He shouldn't have to be around that!"
"That…just so happens to be my birth mother!" Emma felt her hands fist as her heart raced against her chest. "You never see me complaining about how much time your parents get to spend with Henry."
Regina scuffed and rolled her eyes, "That's because my parents aren't drug addicted abusive pieces of shit!"
"Damn it, Regina. She's trying!" Emma can feel the sting of tears in the back of her eyes but fights them off.
"She is trying, Emma. She's trying to weasel more money out of us." Regina looks up at the ceiling, how many times do they have to have the same fight? Why couldn't Emma see that the woman who gave birth to her wasn't worth trying to save?
Looking back to Emma, Regina continued, only the slightest bit guilty when she saw the start of tears in Emma's eyes. She needed Emma to hear her. She needed her to understand that this was for the best. That leaving the woman out of their lives was for the best.
"How stupid do you have to be to believe that she actually cares about you, Emma? She only comes to you when she wants something. Money, my money, to be frank."
Emma recoiled at the statement. The subject of money still a very sore subject with the blonde, who had always been 'beneath' Regina. She'd never made close to what Regina continues to make and it has often times made Emma feel like a kept woman. Emma's place as Regina's partner was always under deep scrutiny because of their age difference, her 'immaturity', and her lack of social and economic standing.
"That was low…" Emma ground out. "I never gave her your money." What money she had given to her mother was hers to give; it was not in their joint bank account but in Emma's personal savings.
Regina knew she struck low but she offered no apology, merely crossed her arms in defiance against her own wish to console the blonde. Regina hated it when she had a right to be angry with Emma but her heart wanted nothing more than to comfort and hold her to make everything better.
There was a long silence, the first since this fight began almost an hour ago. Neither was willing to say a word. Both were far too stubborn to say what needed to be said to concede this battle. They both wanted their points to be heard and taken to heart. They weren't willing to just go on as if this wasn't bothering them.
Emma doesn't like that Regina still treats her like a child that needs to be educated and protected.
Regina doesn't like that Emma has to save everyone no matter how misguided her attempts are.
It started in the kitchen where they had been cleaning the dishes together and the topic of what Emma and Henry had done today came up. Emma hadn't mentioned their trip until Henry was in bed for a reason. Emma was surprised that they hadn't woken Henry up as their screaming match had moved from the kitchen into the dining room and finally into Regina's study where they'd closed the doors so their voices wouldn't carry to Henry's room.
Regina never liked Emma's mother; had always been suspicious of her reappearance so late in her life. Emma could at least admit that Regina had valid reasons to be weary of Cora. She had turned out to be just as troubled and shifty as Regina had suspected from the very beginning. Her mother was a con artist, and had fooled Emma once before. This time Emma wasn't falling for her tricks or playing her games but Regina didn't trust her. Regina still saw her as that nineteen year old mother newly released from juvie in need of rescuing.
Emma wasn't naive. Or maybe she liked to think she wasn't. Her history with people just seemed to prove how mistaken she was. She had trusted in the foster parents that said they loved her, even after they'd beaten her so badly that they broke her arm. She'd trusted in the system to find her a good home to go to before she'd age out. She'd trusted Neal and had been sent to juvenile detention for her misguidance where she gave birth to the best thing in her life.
The only time she had trusted someone and it hadn't backfired on her was when she had trusted in Regina. Had put her future in Regina's hands and had her trust rewarded in ways she wouldn't have been able to fathom had it not actually happened.
"She wanted to see me and Henry before she left." Emma explained, her voice softer as she refused to meet Regina's eyes.
"Right, and I bet she took the chance to ask for more money. How much did you give her this time?" Regina snarled, still furious at Emma for giving that woman three grand of her hard earned money.
Emma cringed, staring at the ground. "I gave her enough money for the one way bus ticket and some food money."
"Which she'll probably use on alcohol or drugs. You're not helping her by giving her money whenever she pops up looking for help from her precious baby girl." Regina knew her anger wasn't all directed at Emma, she was angry with Cora as well and the pain she constantly brought Emma and their family.
"She's not coming back." Emma whispered so softly Regina couldn't hear her. Emma hated this feeling. She hated how she was cowering in on herself because she was too drained and defeated to defend her own mother against her wife's angry onslaught. She needed Regina to understand how much she was hurting and comfort her. She knew, deep in her heart, that she was never going to see her mother again. She had watched from the curb as she left and knew that death or jail would take Cora before Emma ever saw her again.
"Why? Why are you so blind?" Regina felt her ire rise again. The fact that Emma wouldn't give her a specific amount meant she wouldn't approve of what she had 'donated' to the con artist. She didn't approve of Emma handing that witch a single penny. "Not everyone is worth saving, Emma!" Regina didn't notice how violently Emma recoiled at that. "Not everyone can be saved!"
Emma's eyes hardened, "How do you decide whose worth saving? Why do you feel you can be the one to decide whose worth the time and effort?"
"This isn't about everyone; this is just about your mother."
"No." Emma shook her head. "No, this isn't just about my mother."
Regina sighed, "Emma don't start this again." She was exasperated. She recognized exactly where her wife's mind had headed.
"I didn't start this Regina. I'm just the one that ends up getting hit low."
"Emma, please…" Regina took two determined strides towards Emma. Emma took just as many away.
"You still see me as a charity case. Someone you saved, that you took in and clothed, fed…fucked." Emma bit out the word as if it were the ugliest of words she'd ever spoken.
"You're being crude and ridiculous." They had been together for ten long years. They'd known each other for eleven. Whatever insecurities Emma still held as the runaway teenaged mother who Regina took in eleven years ago should be long gone. At least Regina thought they should.
"I'm not good enough for you. How could I be?" Emma asked as she gestured around their extravagant home. "An orphaned runaway teenage mother with a record."
Regina shook her head, "You know I love you, Emma."
Emma continued, as if she hadn't heard Regina's declaration. And maybe she hadn't; too lost in her self-pity. "But your parents are right, aren't they? You're too good for me. You think I'm beneath you. Me and my son and my drug addict mother don't fit into your perfect family mold. You're the high society white Princess and I'm the evil con artist-temptress trying to seduce you for your money." Emma felt tears falling down her cheeks but let them fall without attempting to wipe them away.
Regina continued her attempts to reach Emma but the emotional woman kept her distance. Regina thought it was ridiculous that she was circling her wife around her own office when all she wanted to do was comfort her. To make her see that she was being irrational. Regina had been lost the first time she'd seen Emma standing behind the kitchen island holding a meat cleaver as a weapon to protect herself and Henry from the 'invasion' into the house she had been squatting in.
"Emma, my parents accept our relationship. You know that. They love Henry."
Emma snorted out a laugh, "Henry. Not me. Let's be honest Regina. The only reason that you're even with me is because of Henry."
Regina felt like stomping her foot, hoping the sudden noise would cut through whatever depressive cloud had settled over Emma. "That's not true! You know that's not true! I love YOU, Emma. Not who you think you should be, but who you are. Stupidity and all."
Emma laughed, and laughed, and laughed. The sound turning crazier and maniacal the longer it continued.
"Stupidity? I may be stupid but—"
"Enough!" Regina held up her hand, her voice rose authoritatively. "Enough. This isn't about your self-wroth. You're upset that I don't like, nor trust, your mother but you cannot keep deflecting this conversation with woes of your insecurities. You cannot tell me that I think of you, or that my parents think of you, any way but lovingly." Regina insisted, fed up of Emma's continued relapse of self-hatred and inequality.
"You are my family. I hate when you're in pain. I long to make you understand that you and Henry are the best things to ever happen to me, Emma." If there was one look that could convey ten long years of love and devotion, Regina hoped this was it. She loved Emma with her whole heart and she knew Emma loved her in return. They were destined to be together. It was just, Emma needed a bit reminding every once and a while.
"I wish you could see that. That you could believe me, believe in what I'm saying in my ridiculous attempt to magically show you how unfounded your fears are." Regina stared longingly at Emma as if the shine in her eyes could convey the emotions she was speaking of.
"Regina…" Emma felt her throat close as she looked into Regina's eyes. The light in the den shone in them, brightening the brown of her eyes to look like swirling depths of inviting chocolate.
"When you talk like this, how am I supposed to feel? Hmmm….?"
"Wha…what?" Emma asked, trying to recover from the warmth that had seeped into her chest at the adoration upon Regina's face. There was a nagging voice in the back of her head that insisted she needed to stand her ground, that she couldn't allow Regina to sweep her feet out from under her. It was getting louder and louder as the seconds ticked on.
"When you question your worth, question how I see you, you're telling me that after all these years I still haven't loved you how you need."
Emma back pedaled, "Regina, that's not—"
"Isn't it? Isn't that what you're really saying? I make you feel inferior, unloved, unwanted? When you say that I'm only with you because of Henry you're really just saying that I'm a liar when I tell you how much I love you. That the only reason I'm still here—with you—is because of Henry."
"Well…" Emma cleared her throat.
Regina glared, "Well, what?"
"Are you?" Emma asked, unashamed of her question; at least partially.
She always wondered what Regina would have done if she hadn't heard Henry's cries coming from the living room the night they met. Emma had broken into Regina's family home in Tallahassee. She was squatting in it because she hadn't been able to find work or a place to stay with Henry. The house was fully stocked with food that would have just gone to waste and after a week without seeing anyone, Emma had gotten comfortable. Too comfortable.
Regina had been outraged when she'd found Emma in the kitchen, arming herself with a meat cleaver from her kitchen, ready to defend herself and Henry against the intruder. Emma thought it was another homeless person breaking in. How was she to know it was the rightful owner of the home coming to stay?
Regina had been about to call the cops on Emma before Henry's cries from the living room had stopped the older woman short, as she realized why Emma had taken to squatting in her home. If it weren't for Henry, Emma knew deep down that Regina would have called the cops. The only reason she and Regina were given a chance to develop feelings for each other was Henry.
Regina's eyes widened and she physically recoiled, no longer interested in getting closer to Emma. The notion that Emma could actually ask her that question at all astounded her and left her heart aching inside her chest.
"Did you, just…?" Regina was in shock. That was the only way she could explain it. She couldn't even finish her thought.
"Tell me why you're really concerned, Regina. It's not because of me. You're most upset because I brought Henry to see Cora. Not that I…saw her."
"Damn right I'm mad you brought our twelve year old son to see that toxic woman! And…"
"He's my son! He deserved to say goodbye to her. She's his family." Emma knew Henry couldn't remember the time Cora had left him at a festival all by himself when he was eight. He just thought she'd gone to get him ice cream and Emma and Regina found him nearly two hours later, no ice cream in hand. He loved Cora and Emma knew he'd never forgive her if he knew she'd gone to say goodbye—for the last time—and didn't take him. Twelve years old or not Emma stood by her decision.
"And me and my parents aren't family?" Regina questioned, confused how any of this made sense. How Emma could be so blind when it came to the woman who had only ever brought her grief and pain.
"No!" Regina froze. "No, you're not!"
Emma felt the color drain from her face the moment after her outburst. She was just so upset. So angry. She didn't mean what she'd just said. Regina was just as much Henry's mother as she was. Mary Margaret and David were the best grandparents Emma could have ever hoped for, for Henry. They had been Emma's family during a time she didn't think she deserved anyone who loved her. They were her family. They just weren't blood.
They didn't know what it felt like to finally have a chance to know their parents. They didn't know what it felt like to have a hole inside of them because they didn't understand how their own mother could abandon them, or use them for her own gains without a care of how it would affect them. Emma did know that feeling and all she wanted was for it to go away so that she could finally just be happy with the life she had made for herself.
"Regina…" Emma practically fell forward in her attempt to reach Regina. There was a void in Regina's eyes that Emma hadn't seen in more than ten years. "Regina, no, I didn't…REGINA!" Emma yelled, her voice echoing through the room and into the hallway where it carried up the stairs and down the halls of the whole house.
The sound chased after her fleeing wife as Emma perused her. Emma ran into the foyer and only came to a stop when the door slamming closed echoed through the otherwise quiet house. Her breath short and face red, her eyes shifted between the stairs that led to where Henry was supposed to be sleeping and back to the closed door that led to her fleeing wife. Her body trembled as she placed the palm of her hand against the flat surface of the door and leaned on it. She couldn't leave, not with Henry upstairs.
She cringed when she heard the sound of Regina's car starting and the gravel kicking up as the car drove away.
Regina was gone.
-.-.-.-.-One Year Later-.-.-.-.-.-
"Henry!" There was no answer. "Henry, you're going to be late!" Emma called into the apartment, busy at the stove making the last piece of French toast.
"I'm ready." Henry slumped into the stool at the kitchen island. His head resting on the counter top almost immediately. His jaw cracked as he yawned. Emma heard him try and stifle a second yawn as she put the French toast on a plate and gave him the grape jelly to spread on it.
"How late?" Emma asked a disapproving look on her face as she watched him eat. She was still up from the night before and had already eaten. When Henry went to school she would get a few hours of sleep before getting some housework done before getting to work. She'd be here when Henry got back from school, help him with as much of his homework as she could, and then leave when Mrs. Fredrick came to look after him as she went to work.
Henry barely looked up from his plate as he inhaled his breakfast. With his mouth full he answered, "Wone…mawybe two."
Emma sighed, "Is everything finished?" She couldn't help if that was what time he had finally finished the homework now. She could just insist that he try and finish it earlier if possible. With the amount of work and the complex nature of the assignments she was lucky she could still help him at all.
"Yea, there's just one question I left blank. I was going to ask Jimmy for help when we got to school." Henry was quick to add when he saw the reprimand at the tip of Emma's tongue.
"Alright…" Emma watched Henry take a long gulp of his milk. "Should I call Mrs—"
Henry shook his head, "No. I think I'm okay. It was just a hard lesson. I'll get better at it as we go over it."
Emma nodded, "Okay, if that changes I can call her."
Henry nodded as he clapped down his empty glass and wiped away his milk mustache. "Thanks, Ma." Henry grabbed his backpack and was by the main hallway before Emma could call him back into the kitchen.
"Where's my kiss?" Her arms were crossed as she waited for him to come back.
Henry groaned dramatically as he walked back to Emma and bestowed the aforementioned kiss on her cheek. Without asking, Henry wrapped his arms around Emma and rested his head against her collarbone, just above her heart. Emma held him just as tightly and took comfort in his own need to hear her heartbreak to calm down and center himself just like when he was younger. Emma dropped her head to the top of Henry's and breathed in his scent before kissing his scalp. She smiled as she felt him let go of her.
"Love you, kid."
"Love you, too." Henry kissed Emma's cheek again before he ran out the door to meet up with Jimmy so they could walk to school together.
Emma followed him to the door and watched him till he turned the corner to get to Jimmy's apartment. She closed the door when she heard Henry's greeting bounce off the walls back to her. She closed and locked her door before heading into the kitchen to clean up the dishes left behind.
Emma was just drying her hands on a hand towel when the doorbell rang some ten-fifteen minutes later. Thinking it was Henry her steps were quick to reach the door and open it.
"Henry did you forget…Oh!" Emma closed the door a bit to help put it between her and the stranger standing on the other side of her door. He was wearing a lot of leather and eyeliner and smelled like the ocean at low tide. "Can I help you?" Emma asked, as she stared at the man who seemed to be looking at her as if she were a long lost friend. His smile of recognition and care broke across his face immediately.
"Swan…" He breathed softly as he stared, a small rather dashing smile growing upon his face.
"Do I know you?" Emma was sure she didn't. She would have remembered meeting this particular man.
"You don't, but I know how to remind you."
Emma knew something was fishy about this man that had nothing to do with his smell. As he leaned in closer to her and tried to press her lips against hers she reacted on instinct. She shoved her shoulder against his chest, knocking him away and thrust up with her palm at his nose.
"The hell do you think you're doing?" Emma slammed the door closed on the lunatic and locked it. Her eyes caught sight of something shining in his left hand just as she'd closed the door. "I have a gun and I swear to god if you so much as knock lightly on this door I'll shoot you through the wood." Emma promised, already moving to the intercom to call building security.
"Wait, Emma wait. I'm sorry. I thought…we need to talk. It's important. It's about your parents. Your mother sent me."
Emma hung up the phone and grabbed the gun in the closet safe by the front door. Listening very carefully to what the crazy fish man behind the door had to say. Possible deadly weapon in his hand no match for her sharp shooting.
"What about my mother?" Emma wouldn't put it past Cora to send a lunatic to her with requests or demands. The only problem with his story was that she hadn't given Cora her forwarding address. Then again, this was Cora, if she wanted to get in touch with Emma—probably about more money—she would find her. She always found her and then left her life in shambles. Nothing more than a shadow of the once glorious structure her life had been before she stumbled back into it with her sob stories and promises of redemption and reconciliation.
"Can you open the…"
"Not gonna happen asshole. You got something to say to me you say it through the door."
"She needs you. She sent me to get you and Henry and bring you to Storybrooke. She's in trouble, danger. Grave danger." Cora was always in grave danger. Mostly danger she caused for herself. "Swan? Swan are you there? Are you even listening to what I have to say?"
Emma felt her anger begin to boil under the surface. How dare Cora give out personal information about her and Henry to this man. For all she knew this was Cora's drug dealer coming to her to get Cora's debt paid off. No, whatever he had to say he could save it. She wasn't interested. Let Cora deal with her own messes for once. Her mother had cost her the love of her life. She wasn't going to cost her anything else.
Her back was turned to the door and she started to ignore his crazy ramblings. She picked up the phone and called security. She stood close enough to the door and listened as they dragged him away. The head of the security department checked on her to make sure she was okay before he too left and she was alone.
"Only in Manhattan right?" The security guard had joked lamely before leaving, but maybe she could somewhat agree with him. Only in Manhattan could she expect to open her door to see some wanna be pirate stinking like rotting ocean and fish at her door with nepharious intentions.
Making her way to the window Emma looked at the crowds making their way around the city for a few minutes to calm herself down. With the adrenaline leaving her system she went into the bathroom, popped a few Advil, and finished two glasses of water before she went into her private den and sat down at her computer.
There were three desk top screens in front of her on a desk which sat just off center to the left in the room. In front of the desk upon the wall hung a dry erase board with various pieces of paper both typed and handwritten and marker circling in a web graph. There were lines that connected one section to another but showed gaps in the design with large question marks and empty space to be filled in as the mystery was solved.
Along the outer edges of the web there were dates with question marks, city maps, and four word questions. Where did we live? When did this happen? When were we there? Where are her parents? Where did she work? What was our address? What was our telephone-number?
The closer to the center of the web there was less and less information. There was hardly any information on the board as it was. Emma didn't even have pictures to provide for the identities of the people she remembered meeting through the years. She knew that many of the family photos had been lost but she couldn't recall how exactly they were lost. Was it a fire? A flood? Did they get destroyed in a garage with mold or were they lost because of a rat or roach infestation? It was just one of the many unanswered questions on the board. Where are the pictures? How were they lost?
Emma followed the trail of useless information from the outer edges of the web towards the middle. She stopped at the bank account statements again. Sure that they were going to be the key to solving this puzzle. She stood up from her seat and walked to the board and fingered the statements. There were twelve, one for each month. The transfers were always made on the 28th of that month at 8:15am.
The money was transferred into the joint account that Emma shared with Regina. A parting gift from the wife who'd otherwise abandoned her and their son a year ago.
Emma knew the money was so she could provide for Henry. A gift but also an insult that insinuated she couldn't provide for Henry without the assistance. It was very much like Regina to make a point even while being where ever it was she happened to be. It was all just one big last slap to the face from her 'darling' wife.
Emma couldn't pretend that she wasn't bitter and angry and hurt as well as guilty over this whole mess. It was a stupid fight over something that Emma was ashamed to admit had nothing to do with Regina. Not really.
What had driven Regina away wasn't Cora or Emma's persistent refusal to stop helping her birth mother. No, what had driven Regina away was Emma's insecurities, and maybe a little of Regina's as well. Regina had one greatest fear: losing Henry should their marriage fall apart. Regina feared that Emma would not only take herself out of Regina's life but also take Henry. Regina feared that the courts would grant Emma sole custody if she ever sought it, because Emma was related to Henry by blood and she was not.
Emma never even considered taking Henry from Regina. It wasn't a thought in her mind. She loved Regina and didn't want to be without her. But she wasn't good at loving someone. She made mistakes.
The mistake of telling Regina that she wasn't Henry's family was the biggest one of all.
She never thought that Regina would take her seriously. They were both angry and it was a fight. She didn't expect to come home from picking Henry up from school to find Regina's things were gone. It was like she had never been there to begin with. Any and all calls made to Regina's phone went to voicemail.
Then when she made a missing person's report the cops stopped looking for Regina because she wasn't a missing person. They'd been in contact with her—Regina had answered their phone call—and their investigation stopped. They may have stopped but Emma wasn't going to. At least not now. The first two months after Regina left Emma was furious. Livid that her wife would literally pick up and leave, not only leave her, but leave Henry as well. It didn't make sense.
They were happy. They were good together.
They had just had a fight. It was one measly fight.
That cost her nearly everything she cared about.
When Emma tried calling Regina after the cops did the number had been disconnected. When Emma tried to call Regina's parents they stopped answering and soon after their lines were disconnected and out of service. Supposedly they'd left the country for an extended vacation, or so the last message had stated before the service had been disconnected.
The harder Emma looked for Regina the foggier and crazier everything started to become. It was like waking up from a dream. The more she thought about the events of the dream the more she could remember them but she'd lose the finer details she didn't focus on. And if for one moment she stopped focusing on that dream and the details within, she'd lose it all. That's what was happening. She was losing it all.
Henry asked her to stop looking for Regina. He was devastated by her disappearance and blamed Emma for quite a while. Their relationship was rocky and hard to maintain the first two months after Regina left. Emma was constantly trying to prove to Henry that she wasn't the bad guy in this situation. She wasn't the ominous evil he believed her to be and Regina wasn't the knight in shining armor that was going to come back and save him from her wicked clutches.
It was towards the third month that Henry's anger slowly shifted to Regina. He wasn't as angry at Emma anymore, though a part of him still blamed her for Regina's abandonment. He suddenly didn't want anything to do with Regina anymore. He didn't want to think about her or know where she was. He wanted her to stay away from them—or so he said. So he made Emma stop looking. He made her stop asking questions about the life they had together because the more she brought it up, the more upset he became.
Emma wondered sometimes if he became upset because he had trouble remembering their lives as well. But she didn't push. He was in a fragile state and she wanted him to trust her, to believe in her. If he couldn't believe in anything else she wanted him to believe in her. She needed him to.
So for the sake of her son she stopped asking him questions. She stopped bringing Regina up in front of him. But she couldn't stop looking. She couldn't stop asking herself the questions that needed to be answered and still, nine months later, were left unanswered.
Emma was sure she could find Regina if she focused on the bank accounts.
The money had to be coming from somewhere. If she could just trace back the transactions then she could find Regina and apologize. She could yell and scream at the woman for abandoning her and Henry and beg her to come home. And maybe yell at her some more. She'd decide how she'd go about their conversation when she found her and they stood face to face.
For whatever cosmic reason it became harder and harder to remember in finer details the pieces of her life with Regina and Henry the more she thought about it. So she tried not to focus so much on the smaller details but on the larger ones.
The smaller details were the distraction, the illusionist's assistant keeping the audiences eyes away from the real action, the real magic. So Emma focused on the larger picture and found the bank that was transferring the money into her account. Except that bank was merely a proxy for the off shore account the money was coming from.
Emma's finger flipped through the papers one last time before she moved away from them and allowed her eyes to slowly track towards the center of the web.
Where written in big bold black letters was a single word, a single name, and an unspoken promise that Emma intended to keep.
Author's Note: I have NOT forgotten about my other ongoing stories. They will be updated when I can. I wrote this story for the Swan Queen Big Bang held over on Tumblr over the summer. It is a completed work and I will be posting one or two chapters a day for the next week or so. If you haven't been reading the amazing stories and seeing the fabulous art made for this epic Swan Queen Big Bang then you need to go check it out now. There is lovely art made by littlegreenfish for this very story available to see on the Banning All Summer master list found at .com.