Regina had never been scared of Emma Swan. Even when it seemed likely that Emma meant to cause her physical harm, being frightened of her would've required Regina to concede that Emma was capable of hurting her. And by the time Regina would admit that Emma could actually do some damage, they were friendly enough that she knew Emma wouldn't hurt her.
Even when the omens and portents that seemed to hang over Storybrooke like a mist seemed to promise Emma would become evil, Regina wouldn't believe it. Not Emma, who had never been infected with it like Regina had, who hadn't had it passed on to her by her parents or learned it at the feet of someone like Gold. Thinking of Emma as dark—truly black, not like Little Bo Peep or Ruby waking up on the wrong side of the bed—was ridiculous. Regina didn't recognize in her anything she saw in the mirror.
But then she was in Camelot's tower, paging through yet another moldy text, when she suddenly felt that old presence. The taste of power in the air, the madness that heeled like a trained dog, the feeling of a phantom intelligence, human and inhuman, regarding her with its cold capriciousness… it was like she was training under Rumpelstiltskin again, having another of her tête-à-têtes with him.
Then she turned and it was Emma. And in that moment of cognitive dissonance—the sight of Emma feeling like the Dark One—Regina was scared. Not for herself, exactly. Scared like she had been for Daniel, only Cora had at least left the memory of him. Darkness meant gouging out those happy memories, replacing them with the scar tissue of evil deeds. Someone kind and true, like Snow White, could look past all the pain and see the young woman she'd once known. Regina wasn't that strong. She thought if Emma started trying to hurt her, hurt her family, then she wouldn't be able to help hating her.
Regina feared the thought of again being the woman who hated Emma Swan.
Emma still hadn't said anything—lurking in the shadows with only a silent gaze, how Regina would've loved for that to be Emma's MO, once upon a time. Regina gestured around herself, at dark corners and candles burning low. "There you have it. The endless glamor of her Majesty at work."
"The Savior," Emma corrected.
"It's a name. Outside of magic, they have little real power. A rose by any other name…"
"You saying I smell sweet?"
Sweet as poison apples, my dear, Regina thought but didn't say. Funny how many she'd tried to corrupt, entice. The Huntsman, the Prince, the Pirate and the Hatter, even the Queens of Darkness—never Emma. Her, Regina had only threatened. They'd never been two to work together. With them, it was kill or be killed.
Until Emma had turned her…
"Emma, it's Camelot," Regina said. "Isn't there something you can find to entertain yourself?"
"I'd been to enough Ren Faires even before my life became a Ren Faire." Was it just Regina's imagination or did Emma sound—rougher? "Might as well help out here."
Wordlessly, Regina held out a scroll.
Eyes growing wide in a bit of surprise, Emma leaped off the wall she'd been leaning on, snatching the scroll from Regina's hands and examining it like the teacher's pet hoping to get extra credit. "No wonder it's taking so long to find anything. These are all anagrams or something."
"They're in Latin."
"I knew that."
"If you want to help," Regina began, voice lilting in familiarly fond exasperation. "I could use some fresh candles."
"Candles," Emma nodded. "Anything else?"
"Some wine, perhaps?" Regina added. Then, seeing Emma's wide-eyed eagerness to please. "A few thin slices of mutton. A fresh loaf of bread. A cut from the cheese wheel—not too much that there'll be a lot leftover to become hard, but I don't want to be left wanting more cheese either. Use your own discretion."
"Thank you for your trust in me," Emma said seriously.
"And some fruit. Oranges, grapes, mango if they have it—"
"Pretty sure they don't."
"A pineapple! Ask for it. They won't want to give it to you, but they'll give it if you ask." Regina kneaded her hands together. "Finally, some proper food-!"
"What, you don't like McDonald's?"
Regina frowned at her. "No artificial preservatives, no sweeteners, no transfats—this is what they mean when they talk about natural food."
"I kinda prefer my mutton approved by the USDA."
"Don't make yourself too useful," Regina warned. "I could get used to ordering you around."
She focused on the texts as Emma silently flowed away, a chill going through her as she realized how quiet the clopping old bull in a china shop had become. She stared at the words, and they swam before her as she tried to figure out if she'd read them before.
Everyone else had something. Charming had his knighthood. Snow had Neal. Belle had the library, which she was combing through for any clues outside of Merlin's hoard, as well as the sweet agony of worrying over Rumpel. Hook had Emma, Regina supposed, and furthermore, she had Robin, not that she was apt to spend time with him after that cruel reminder at the ball of the penance she was supposed to be doing.
While the others all enjoyed their little day-trip to Fairy Tales, Regina hid from what she'd been. She tirelessly researched a way to save Emma, and the answer proved as elusive as vengeance against Snow White. No matter which side she was on, the universe conspired against her. She should just turn evil again so good could keep winning. It'd been a lot easier to accessorize then anyway.
Yawning, Regina stared closer at the scroll sitting on the tabletop. Closer… closer… until her head was lying against it.
Perhaps if she closed her eyes for a moment, then when she opened them the words would hold still.