A/N- I have written and rewritten this story quite a few times in quite a few ways. I hope that y'all enjoy the read as much as I relished the writing. Oh, and I don't own any of the characters portrayed here.
Regina was relentless. Emma rubbed her tired eyes and leaned back into the soft leather chair in the mansion that belonged to the absent "sorcerer". The brunette was riding her like a barrel horse and the blonde was nearly wiped out. Not that she minded of course; Regina was demanding, but she pulled her weight. Honestly, what more could one ask for?
The blonde bolted upright when her phone went off. Glancing down at the screen, she sighed wearily. "Hello?"
"Hey, love. I sent you a word message on this tiny communicating device."
"You texted me from your cell." She corrected him. The pirate was beginning to get on her nerves. If there was anything that Emma Swan disliked more than a lying man; it was a needy man. "Yes, Killian, I got your message. But I won't be able to make it for dinner. I'm going to be wrapped up here the rest of the night it looks like."
"Regina's working you like one of her servants. I don't like it."
"Regina works her ass off too." The blonde said in an irritated voice.
"And yet you're the one staying late. I saw the Queen in Granny's, ordering food-"
"For me, Hook." The blonde cut him off. She was really getting agitated now. "You sound jealous-"
"Well, I am." He said with a bit of a whine in his voice. "We haven't had a second alone in weeks-"
"I'm keeping a promise. I swore to Regina that I would help her find her happy ending." Emma marveled that only in Storybrook could that sound remotely like something normal to say in conversation.
"And what about your happy ending, Swan?" The pirate grumbled. "What about our relationship?"
"You mean what about you?" She asked heatedly.
"That's not what I said-"
"That's what you meant. Every time I spend time with anyone else, you mope and pout. Even when I spend time with Henry. Here's a newsflash, Killian, I said I cared about you, but we're not married or engaged or...whatever. My kid is the most important thing in my life, my Mom and Dad and brother are next and, right now, the promise I made to Regina is third. It's my fault she's unhappy and I have to fix that. If you have a problem with my priority list, tough luck." She slammed the phone down and looked up when the door opened. Regina stepped through and gave her a reproachful look. "What?" Emma barked.
The brunette's look of disapproval amplified. "You told your boyfriend I'm more important than he is. No wonder he's been slinking around with those puppy eyes."
"I didn't say that."
"That's what it sounded like to me." Regina sat down across from her after depositing the bag from the diner on the table.
"That's because you do think you're more important than him." Emma said as she tore into the sloppy cheeseburger; causing Regina to wince at the mess.
"Fair point." The brunette recovered to grin at her maliciously. "Captain Guyliner is acting a bit jealous; it's sort of...cute."
It was Emma's turn to wince. "No. It's needy. I don't want to have to baby him. I want to be in a relationship with someone that can give as good as they get; someone I can respect. All this wounded, hurt, high-maintenance garbage makes my skin crawl." She stuffed a fistful of fries in her mouth and slurped down her drink. "I mean, don't get me wrong. It's nice to be needed to a certain extent. But how am I supposed to trust or rely on someone that pouts when he doesn't get his way? I would rather he just get out of my way."
Regina considered her a moment. "I quite agree. Robin could be high-maintenance as well." This surprised the blonde and she looked up for a moment. So far, the brunette had refused to discuss her lost love and Emma was shocked into complete silence. "He was an amazing father and a brave and noble man…" She trailed off, looking into the distance. "But he had a tendency to wallow; to relive his mistakes and to dwell on them. If one does that for too long; they will eat you alive."
"You still miss him."
"Of course I do." She snapped. "But I've learned to move on. He's not coming back; he can't. I owe it to myself to move past it. I won't be half a woman because I don't have him."
"I don't think anyone considers you half a woman." Emma grinned.
"And what does that mean, exactly?" The brunette arched a brow.
"Just what I said. No one sees you as weak because Robinhood isn't here. If anything, you have solidified your reputation even further for being so tough."
"It's not a matter of being tough." The woman brushed off the observation. "It's a matter of doing what is necessary; of doing what is right."
"Even when it's tough." Emma threw in and grinned at the woman. Regina narrowed her eyes at the jab, but did not remark.
"So." The brunette said expectantly and the blonde's smile faltered as she could feel the dark eyes boring into her own.
"What have you found?"
Emma slurped her drink. "Not much." She gestured to the books surrounding her. "Like Henry found on the first night, all the books are empty and I haven't found any extra pages so far."
"This just doesn't make sense." The brunette stood and began to pace. "Why haven't we found anything? Where is this sorcerer? And why does he conceal himself?"
"Walk me through finding the page with you and Robin on it again." Emma rubbed her temples.
"I've already told you-"
"Tell me again."
Regina glared but sat down. "Robin went to look in the library because Will Scarlet told him that was the source of the magic. When they arrived and began their search, there was no one there. During this process a piece of paper appeared in Robin's bag-"
"And he was sure-?"
"It wasn't there before, yes."
"But you said the cause of the page's appearance was that you had hope in your future."
"Maybe in order for more to be written, more has to happen."
Regina stared at the blonde who frowned at the table as she thought. "What do you mean?"
"Well, that page was there after you had decided to be hopeful that your story could change. You need to hope again."
The brunette glared at her in disdain. "This isn't the Neverending Story, Miss Swan. I can't save Atreyu with my tears and wishes."
Emma rolled her eyes and stood. "Not with that attitude you can't." The blonde burst out and placed her hands on the top of the desk to lean menacingly toward the brunette. "Come on, Regina! You're telling me you can't have a little faith? After all that you have been through-"
"You don't know the half of what I've been through-"
"Maybe I don't." Emma cut her off. "But judging by what I've seen in the past few years, I know you can do this." The two witches glared at one another until Regina sat down in a rare display of exhaustion. "Christ, Regina." Emma said more softly this time. "I saw you after you took in the curse at the well and watched you come to terms with you mother's death. I watched you after you had been electrocuted; saw you absorb half the power of that diamond. In Neverland, talking sense into Tinkerbelle and Rumplestiltskin. And the sacrifice you made for Henry and I…" Emma trailed off for a moment. "The light magic you used to overcome the Wicked Witch? What about that?" The blonde glared as the woman leaned back in the chair before her. "Don't you dare tell me you can't have faith after all of that."
"I'm tired." The brunette said quietly and clenched her hands before her. "I would just like for something, anything, to be easy."
Emma grinned in a sideways sort of way. "People like us, Regina, get bored with easy. If things were easy, you would find a way to make them more difficult for yourself." The blonde shook her head. "But you've got people in your corner now. You don't have to do everything the hard way. Help me, help you."
The brunette looked up and returned her smile after a small pause. "Why are you doing all of this?"
"Looking for the book?"
"The book, the pep talk, the...everything."
"Why did you give me such pleasant memories when I left with Henry? You didn't have to give me great personal memories. It was all about our son anyway."
Regina frowned. "Do you remember those memories as well?"
"Yeah...I mean, not initially. There was too much going on here and all my real memories replaced the old ones. When Killian first gave me the potion and I began to remember Storybrook and my family, all traces of the memories you gave us were gone. But I've been dreaming them the past few weeks."
Regina nodded. "Your mother mentioned that the same had happened to her in the weeks following her awakening from the curse. I think it's your brain's way of sorting through that which is real and that which is implanted."
"Makes sense. It's just weird having my entire, fake life flash eyes every night. I've had the same dream a couple of times, like my brain can't decide if it actually happened or if you put the thought in my head."
"What is it?"
"Your recurring dream?"
Emma blushed, "Something trivial."
"What is it?" Regina became intensely curious the moment the blonde flushed in embarrassment.
"But if I put it there, I'm the only one that would know."
Emma hated to concede that the woman had a fair point. She shook her head. "I'm sure that it's just a stress dream. Like when you dream you go to work naked or everyone is speaking Spanish or something."
Regina considered her a moment, but let the subject drop. "Indeed." She then stood up and approached the other desk in the room that supported dozens of books they had yet to go through. "Oh, Miss Lucas mentioned to me that Prince Thomas is looking for a job. She thought you might hire him as a deputy."
Emma frowned slightly. "I don't know. I don't know him."
"Oh, yeah, blonde guy." Emma scratched her chin. "I don't know, Regina." The blonde paced around the desk to perch on the top. "I don't know that I trust anyone else to do what I do."
"He's a prince; received a fine military education." The brunette tossed over her shoulder as she shuffled books around. "I also heard from Belle that Mulan has been camping in the woods with the Merrymen since Zelina brought us all back."
"Really?" Emma frowned again and crossed her arms over her chest. "Why wouldn't she come into town?"
"Well, according to Belle," The brunette said as though reluctant to trust the librarian, "she has been staying away from Philip and Aurora...mostly Aurora."
"Why? They're best friends...or they were. Did they have some sort of falling out?" Emma usually didn't care for rumors, but she had genuinely liked Mulan and held a great amount of respect for the warrior.
"Well, not exactly." The brunette replied, still with her back to the blonde.
"What is it?"
"Well, Belle explained that Mulan was in love with Aurora, but couldn't express her feelings once she learned she was pregnant."
"Ah…" Emma said and looked down. "Yeah, I'm sure that would throw a kink in a romance."
Regina turned to judge whether the blonde was being sarcastic. Deciding Emma's comment was one of genuine disappointment, she continued. "Yes, Mulan has been camping in the woods to avoid seeing them. I can't say I blame her."
"I guess not, but then again, she's going to have to at some point. I mean," Emma stood. "I know what it's like to see someone you love, loving someone else. It hurts. But she's gotta get back into the real world...maybe in a few months start seeing people."
"Are you going to play matchmaker, Sheriff?"
"Absolutely not." Emma shook her head with a chuckle. "But I will give her a job. I have seen what she can do; I trust her. And if I learn of any ladies looking for the strong silent, woman warrior type…" She shrugged.
"And you'll give Thomas an interview?"
"Yeah, I guess I will." Emma rubbed the back of her neck. "With a new kid, I know they need the money. That factory doesn't pay him shit."
"A deputy's salary isn't much better." Regina commented.
"Yeah, and who drew the budget on that, Madam Mayor?" The blonde smirked and Regina bristled.
"I'm not the mayor anymore, Sheriff. You can take that up with your mother."
"I'm just teasing, Regina. Sheesh." The blonde said and then looked down at her hands. "How long have you know about Mulan?"
"A week or so now." Regina put her hands in her jacket pockets and looked at the fire. "I went to check on Belle; to see how she was doing after the whole Rumplestiltskin fiasco."
"How is she?"
"Alright, as much as she can be at any rate." The brunette flicked an errant strand of hair behind her shoulder. "Anyway, she let slip about Mulan and came clean when I questioned her further."
"So she's been here since Zelina?"
"Why are you so concerned?"
Emma shrugged. "I dunno. I liked her; I feel bad for her."
"Maybe you're looking for a strong, silent woman warrior type." Regina grinned.
"Me?" The blonde laughed. "No, she's not my type."
The brunette's lip curled in amusement. "Really? And just what is your type, Sheriff Swan?"
"Wouldn't you like to know, Your Majesty?" The blonde responded cheekily as the cell on her hip rang. "Sheriff Swan." She paused. "I'm not surprised." She rolled her eyes. "I'm on my way." Ending the call, she turned to the brunette. "Will fucking Scarlet. I swear to god I'm going to murder him."
"That wouldn't be much of an example for our son, now would it?" The brunette chastised good-naturedly. "What has he done this time?"
"Locked himself in Granny's cooler. I'm the only one that can poof through the door and unlock it-"
"Excuse me, poof?"
"Oh, you know…" Emma waved a hand. "Like disappear and reappear."
"Right, that's what I said."
"No, you said poof which is not a verb; it is an onomatopoeia."
"Bless you." Emma blinked and Regina rolled her eyes. "Anyway, after I handle this, I'll head back here to pick up a few of these...books." She gestured around at some of the magical spell books and history books that Regina had brought from her vault to aid in their research. "But don't feel like you have to wait around for me." The blonde grabbed her jacket, nodded to Regina, and headed out the door.