Regina's heart glowed red and powerful, and very much alive.
"What is it, Ma?"
Emma felt a wave of sadness as the warmth that had been guiding her disappeared.
"You couldn't stay to tell me what to do next?" Emma asked the heart, irritated again.
"Ma?" Henry was becoming agitated. "Ma, I'm not cosy any more."
"Sorry, Henry. It's… This is something we need, to help your Mama. We have to take it to her."
"Where is she? She said she had to go away but where did she go?"
Emma decided this was a very good question. She looked around for something reflective - a spoon would do the trick. She worked on the magic. It was Regina's style, requiring a lot more discipline than Emma could usually be bothered with. She managed to channel whatever trace of Regina still lingered in her, though, and a distorted image appeared.
It definitely hurt this time. Emma gasped with pain as she saw Regina's lifeless body, trapped in that terrible glass coffin. She hid the picture from Henry, not wanting to lie to him, but deciding it was a sight his mind could do without remembering.
"Emma, is my Mama hurt?"
Back to Emma. Another dagger, right through her heart. But Regina was okay, she was going to be okay, this was her heart, right here in this box-
Emma tried not to have a panic attack as she realised the implications of that. Regina's heart, the fragile centre of her soul, was in a pathetic wooden box in Emma's hand, and she, Emma Swan, was the only person in the world, heck, the universe, that had a hope in hell of saving her. If Regina really trusted her that much, the former Evil Queen was a lot stupider than Emma had previously believed.
"Your Mama," Emma said gently, finding a strength within herself she never knew she had, "is going to be just fine once we get this back to her."
Henry smiled, trusting in a way only a child could be.
Emma forced herself to look back at the coffin. It was somewhere in the forest, with a single, sleepy guard. Emma gulped as several peasants, far poorer and more desperate than those in Regina's lands, snuck past the guard and threw rotten food at Regina's body. They wrote messages too, using black charcoal. The body was protected by blue's spell, but the coffin had no such defence and it wasn't long before more peasants appeared, jeering and crowing, throwing stones that broke the glass. Emma took some comfort in the fact that they still seemed afraid of the body, as if the Evil Queen might wake at any moment and smite them, but when she did not they became bolder, breaking the glass, throwing things at the body itself.
Regina wasn't harmed, but the spell did not prevent her from being dirtied. Her thin grey slip was not protected by the spell either, and it became shredded and torn, barely preserving her dignity. Emma felt her magic bubble furiously. The guard had finally come to his senses, but seeing the huge crowd, simply ran away before they could hurt him, too.
As her power swelled, Emma realised she'd seen enough of the clearing to transport herself there. She thought for a moment, then removed her jacket and enchanted it with the most powerful protections she knew. She tore off a piece to tie the box with the heart tightly to Henry's chest, then used the rest of it to tie him securely to her back. She hated that she had to bring him with her, but there was no choice. She wanted to magic him to sleep, but she knew how much she hated being controlled, and she couldn't do that to him. If he wanted, if he really wanted, she and Regina, because yes, it would be both of them again, it had to be, could take the memories from him. But for now, he had to be awake.
"Hold on to me, as tightly as you can," Emma said. "Whatever happens, don't let go. And don't be afraid, I will protect you. I'll protect you and your Mama."
"I know," Henry said, though his voice wobbled a little. He could sense Emma's fear and anger; he knew where they were going was not safe.
Emma brought the clearing to her mind once more, her eyes brimming with furious tears as she thought about what those vile creatures were doing to her beloved. It was Snow's doing, too. Snow convinced her people that the blame for their poverty lay with Regina, the Evil Queen, rather than her foolishness and inability to manage money, or let go of a grudge she'd held on to for far too long.
Emma transported herself and Henry to the edge of the clearing, concealed by the trees. Her only comfort was the feeling of their hearts, hers racing with fury, Henry's thrumming with fear he hardly understood, and Regina's beating with the confidence of ignorance. She didn't know what was happening to her, she didn't know what she'd wake up to. Emma thought hard. She knew, she'd worked out, that for this to work, everyone had to think Regina was dead, gone for good. There couldn't be a single peasant that doubted it.
Luckily, their defacement of the coffin and body made it disgustingly easy for her to cry and scream. Honestly, there was no pretence at all. She let herself feel all of it. Every stone, every rotten fruit, every shouted curse or insult, every tear at Regina's clothing, she felt more deeply than she would have had it been her own body. Henry sobbed too and Emma begged forgiveness from whatever power there was for what she was putting him through. But they had to believe it. They had to know…
Tear stained, shaking, pure agony shrouding her, Emma stepped into the clearing and roared for their attention. She raised her hands and blood red magic poured from them. This was no light, loving power. This was dark, bloody murder, and she would chase and kill them all if she had to.
"GET AWAY FROM HER OR YOU WILL DIE," she screeched, ragged and wild, the fullest threat she'd ever given.
Not one needed to be told twice. They ran, as fast as their pathetic legs could carry them.
"TELL YOUR SO CALLED QUEEN I AM TAKING HER BODY!" Emma yelled after them. Her magic seared it into their minds; they would have no choice but to tell, to tell everyone they met of Emma's rage, her insanity, and her posession of the Evil Queen.
As soon as they were gone, Emma dropped the anger and cried bitter tears, tears that no one could sweeten this time. She sobbed over the body, over the defacement of it, and she let Henry down (still wrapped in the enchanted jacket) and he sobbed too. Thunder clapped in the sky and perhaps it was magical, perhaps it was just well timed, and rain poured down on mother and son as they held on to their family and Emma took the heart out of the box and let it pulse hotly in her hand.
Emma realised with horror that she had no idea what to do. Regina understood hearts, Regina knew how to take them, control them, use them. But Emma knew nothing. She shouldn't be trusted with any heart, let alone one this valuable. And yet here it was, hot and red in her shaking hand as she cried and wailed and tried to shield it from the rain.
She cradled it to her chest, pulling Henry close as well.
"Make her better, Ma," Henry begged. "Please, Ma. Make her better."
Emma took a deep breath, then closed her eyes, taking herself away from the body, the torn dress, the vile clearing, the soaking rain. She waited until she knew nothing but the love of her son and her love of Regina. She waited until even the beating heart in her hand disappeared, until she was nothing but a drifting soul, forever entwined with another.
"Keep your eyes closed. Do you feel me with you?"
"Feel me, Emma. Whenever you close your eyes."
Emma opened her eyes. She knew what to do.
Ever so carefully, she put the heart back into the box and leaned over Regina. First she had to lift Blue's spell. That was all too easy - fairy dust was no match for a love like theirs. Then she had to heal the wound. Easy, again. An arrow did little damage when it pierced an empty chest. Emma felt Regina's cells bind together and watched as the small red circle became a tiny white scar.
Now the heart. Emma picked it up, holding it in both hands. Henry watched, still and silent, with an inexplicable understanding of the vital importance of this moment to all of their lives.
Emma raised the heart and plunged it into Regina's chest, surrounded by all the love she could muster. She felt it go in, she felt it slot into place, she she opened her eyes (though she didn't remember closing them) and stared at Regina's face. Was it sleeping or lifeless? Had it worked? Should she try again, should she-
She heard a sound, grabbed Henry, grabbed Regina's hand, and instinctively poofed them away. They were back on the bed, the bed where everything had happened. Henry stroked his brunette mother's hair.
"Mama, you need a bath," he whispered in her ear.
Was that a smile? A twitch of a laugh? Emma blinked. Had she imagined it? Had she missed something? What was she supposed to do now?
Kiss me, you idiot.
Emma kissed. It was kind of gross. There was no pulse of magic, the world didn't change, there was no curse to break, and Regina Mills opened her eyes.
"That would have been a lot more romantic if you hadn't taken so long, Saviour."
Emma felt tears pour down her cheeks and she didn't know if they were relieved or angry.
"You're such a witch, Regina! You were awake that whole time?"
Regina rolled her eyes. "No. But I could feel you. And your fu-fudging deliberating. Was it really that complicated? I mean, I even told you about it before I left."
"Seriously? And you couldn't have told me the whole story? Or stayed with me, that warm, chesty thing, when I had to actually save you."
Regina sighed, utterly exhausted. "I stayed with you as long as I could. But if I had been with you, in the way that I could manage, you would never have convinced Snow's subjects of your pain."
"Critiquing my acting now, are you?"
"Oh, come on, Emma. You know you'd never have threatened them like that if I'd been comforting you, if you knew I was okay."
"And you couldn't have stayed as an instructive, non comforting presence?"
"It's a spell, I wasn't actually there. In fact it was a fairly simple, locator spell. Mixed with something more complicated, of course. But I just used…" Regina blushed, "Well, I used love. My heart would draw in anyone I shared true love with, and once they carried it, the spell would disappear."
"One day you're going to have to teach me all this magic shit you seem to know about."
Henry snuggled into his mother's side and Regina raised her eyebrows at Emma's language.
"Sorry," Emma muttered. "I'm still getting used to this whole parenting thing."
Regina chuckled. "You're far better than you think you are. Isn't she, Henry?"
"Love you, Mama," Henry mumbled. Emma bit her lip. "And I love you, Ma," Henry whispered.
Emma's face broke into a smile she hadn't known she had in her.
"We should tell Mal," Emma said softly. "I think she was pretty cut up-"
"No," Regina said firmly.
"No? But Regina, there are so many people that care about you-"
"And as far as they know, and will always know, I died this morning."
"Emma," Regina said gently. "What do you think all this was for?"
"I… So we could be together."
"Yes. And how do you suppose that will happen if your parents, or anyone in the White Kingdom, learns that I did not die?"
Emma frowned, feeling stupid. "But what will we do, then? You can't live here, someone could come in at any moment, how will we possibly manage to keep you a secret?"
Regina reached into Emma's pocket, extracting something she had put there for safekeeping the day before.
"We will use this."
It was a magic bean.
"To go where?" Emma asked.
"A new life," Regina said with a grin. "And I don't know about you but I can't wait for a new life away from this dismal realm. Of course," she added, her confidence faltering slightly, "you could always stay, if you wanted. The kingdom is yours to rule-"
"Idiot," Emma said, pulling her close. "So, now?"
"Now," Regina nodded. "I hear, where we're going, we may well be the only magical creatures."
"Curse in front of our son again and I'll curse you!"
"You said our. You said he's our son."
Regina smiled. "Well, he is."
They rose from the bed.
"I hope this new place has baths," Emma said as the both took one of Henry's hands. "Because I can smell you from here."
Regina rolled her eyes, threw the magic bean, and stepped into a portal to the unknown with the family she had never known she needed.
In their new lives, anything might happen. They could be a mayor, a sheriff, a writer… But all three stepped fearlessly, because no matter what awaited them, they would face it surrounded by a love truer and stronger than any love in any fairytale you've ever read.