"You've been avoiding me."
Emma startles, knocking paperwork flying. She looks up at Hook, who drops into the seat on the opposite side of her desk, looking at her expectantly.
"I haven't been avoiding you," she denies instinctively. She still doesn't know how to explain to Hook – how to explain to anyone – her decision. It would be so easy for someone to dismiss her as a lovesick girl avoiding her responsibilities as Savior for a man. And Graham is a part of her decision, yes – but so is everyone else who survived to the new timeline. So is Joanna, who takes care of baby Neal and helped to raise Snow. So are dozens of others who Emma doesn't know quite so well, who survived Zelena but didn't survive Regina.
Hook raises his eyebrow. "Is it because I know about what Zelena did, and no one else does?"
"No one?" double-checks Emma. She hasn't noticed anyone else acting odd, but who knows? She's had a lot on her plate lately.
"No one," confirms Hook. "As far as I know, at least. But surely they would have approached you or the sheriff by now if there was anyone." Emma feels herself slump with relief. No one else knows. No one else to pressure her to change the timeline back, no one else to try to change it without her.
Hook's still looking at her, expression calculating. She stares back at him evenly. She's made her decision. He won't sway her from it.
"I can understand it," he says at last. "If there was any way I could have Milah back with me, I would take it without a second thought."
"It isn't just Graham," she says firmly. "There are dozens of reasons. Dozens of people."
Hook nods. "Aye, I can see that, too. But not everyone might see it that way."
The door to the station opens and Emma glances up. It's Graham, box of doughnuts in his hands and keys dangling from his fingers. He looks a little surprised at the sight of Hook, but doesn't comment on it as he drops the box on to Emma's desk and kisses her forehead quickly.
"As I was saying," says Hook, loudly. Emma rolls her eyes at him. Apparently understanding doesn't mean the jealously has dissipated. "I heard from the Merry Men that there was a portal out in the woods. There might be some unpleasant visitors soon." He's been looking between Emma and Graham as he spoke, but now he looks directly at Emma. "Looks like the happy ending is over."
Emma feels her heart constrict a little. It could be anyone. It could be any storybook villain. Hell, it could even be someone she had never heard of before. Surely there was somewhere in the multiverse that hadn't become a story in this world.
But she can't shake the horrible feeling that the portal was from Oz.
And, well. With Zelena happily installed as Evil Queen of the Enchanted Forest, there was only one person who could be coming from Oz.
"See anything?" asks Graham. He has both hands on his gun, scanning the forest surrounding them.
"Nope," she calls back. "David?"
David jogs over, shaking his head. "Whoever it was, they've covered their tracks. We're lucky that Tuck saw the portal open, or we probably would never have known."
"They're probably familiar with travelling in the woods, then," notes Graham. "They could still be hiding out here now for all we know."
"Or they could have used magic to conceal their path," suggests Emma. She wants Graham to be right. She really wants Graham to be right. But she had to be prepared for the possibility that Regina has returned to Storybrooke.
It makes sense. She can definitely see Zelena, petty and vindictive as she is, leaving Regina with full memory of the original timeline so that Regina knows exactly what she is missing out on. But Regina survived as long as she did for a reason. She always manages to wriggle out of seemingly impossible scenarios, be it through a daring rescue by one of her allies, her own magical power, or using someone's goodness against them.
She wants Regina as far away from Graham as possible. She wants Regina as far away from Henry as possible. She wants her entire family to be safe from Regina and all the horrors that Regina once put them through. She wants both Evil Queens gone.
"If they're capable of using portals, then the chances are they're also capable of wielding magic," agrees Graham.
"If they're the one to create the portal," points out David. "They could have paid someone off. We just don't know."
David's right. They don't know. Emma has absolutely no idea who came through that portal, just a terrible sinking feeling that it's Regina.
"Are you okay?" asks Graham, putting a hand on her arm. David shifts to look at her, expression concerned.
Emma forces a smile. "Peachy."
Graham's still worried at dinner time. Henry is, too. Henry had taken one glance at her, and then exchanged a very long look with Graham, before he had started chattering happily away at a mile a minute. Graham contributed, too, after spending almost the entire day together, he didn't have so many stories to contribute.
Her boys almost succeeded. Emma felt lighter than she had all day, but sometimes as she looked at them both, she couldn't help the stray thought: I could lose this.
Emma can deal with Zelena. She had been able to deal with Regina. But she had never confronted either of them at the height of their villainy, and based off what she knows about why Regina turned on Snow – well, Regina is not going to react well to Emma choosing Graham and the others over her.
"Dishes?" says Graham, looking at Henry. The two stand with a clatter, and Henry steals Emma's plate before she can do the same.
"We'll do it," Henry reassures her. "Go sit down." Graham looks amused but nods when Emma looks to him.
Honestly, she thinks, with fond exasperation. She follows Henry's orders anyway, because she's learnt better than to get in Henry's way when he thinks he's taking care of her, especially when Graham is backing him up. (A voice that sounds suspiciously like her mother's points out that when they're both trying to take care of her, then they probably have a good reason.)
She curls up in front of the television, listening to her fiancé and son in the kitchen rather than watching it. Henry's merrily chattering away and earning laughter from Graham occasionally. Emma smiles at the sound of Henry exploding into laughter at something Graham says and wonders if she's going to have to break up a water fight soon.
And then all sound cuts off. Emma jumps to her feet, looking around. She can see Henry and Graham through the doorway, Graham washing the plates and Henry drying them. Their mouths are still moving, and they don't seem to have noticed anything is wrong.
Emma feels herself go very cold.
"So this is what you abandoned me for," says Regina, and Emma spins to see her in the corner of the room, examining her nails. "A pretty, domestic life with my son and my Huntsman."
Emma can see bait when she sees it, but she bristles anyway. "They're not yours," she snarls. Especially not Graham. Emma can see how Regina lays her claim to Henry, even if Emma hates it: but Regina has nothing on Graham, nothing.
"It seems the best you can do if picking up my scraps," muses Regina.
Emma doesn't think, just raises her hand and pushes. The magic swirls out from her fingers and slams Regina back against the wall. "They're no one's scraps," she hisses. "They're people – beautiful, wonderful people." Regina pushes herself back to her feet, movements slow and painful. Her eyes flit to something behind Emma, and she smirks.
Emma doesn't risk glancing around, but then she hears Graham demand, "Who are you and what are you doing here?" Henry appears by Emma's side, peering at Regina with a mixture of curiosity and worry. Emma realises, distantly, that whatever spell Regina cast must have been one way, and that Graham and Henry must have heard Regina being thrown against the wall.
Emma pushes Henry behind her; she doesn't think Regina would try to physically harm Henry, but she isn't willing to take any risks.
"A better question would be what you're doing here, pet," says Regina, her voice silky. Her eyes slide over to Emma on the last word: the term isn't going to have any effect on Graham, not without his memories of the other timeline, but Regina knows it's enough to get under Emma's skin.
"Get out," snarls Emma. "Get out of my house."
"Touchy," titters Regina. Emma starts to lift her hand again, and then – gone. Regina's gone, just a quick spell then poof!
"Who was she?" asks Henry. Graham meets Emma's gaze over his head, expression worried. "Is she a villain?"
"Probably," says Emma. The panic is beginning to recede and she grasps for a plan. "Call my parents and tell them to come here," she tells Graham. "They'll need to know."
"Who are you calling?" asks Graham, as she starts to search her bag for her cell.
Emma pulls it out and turns the screen on. "Hook."
Hook is the last to arrive, and he raises his eyebrows at the sight of the impromptu war council arranged in the living room. "Never thought I'd see the day when I was invited to one of these," he mutters, gingerly taking a seat next to David.
"Regina was here," she tells him, and his eyes shoot up to look at her.
"Well, then," he says, leaning back against his chair and crossing his arms. "I can see the need."
"What's going on?" breaks in Snow. "Who's Regina?"
Emma bites back a bitter smile. Irony was proving to be one of her closest companions in this timeline. "A month ago, I drank some of the water from the wishing well, and it restored something to me. Memories," she explains. "Memories of another timeline that Zelena changed into this one. In the original timeline, Zelena was abandoned by Cora as a baby, and Cora's second child became the Evil Queen."
"And Regina is that Evil Queen?" asks David. "She knows?"
Emma nods. "Zelena would have placed Regina in the life she lived before the change, but left Regina with all her memories, so she would know what she had lost," she says. "I guess Zelena didn't account for how crafty Regina can be."
David places his arm on the table and exhales, eyebrows raised. "Two Evil Queens," he says. "Can't we ever have a break?"
"Regina is very cunning, and spent a long time under Rumplestiltskin's tutelage," says Hook. "And more over, she knows all of you, while only Emma and I know her. You all have to be on your guard."
Graham studies Hook. "You remember, too. For how long?"
Hook shrugs. "About the same amount of time as Swan, far as I can tell," he says. "She knew when I first approached her about it. Thought she might want to change it back, being the Savior and all."
All eyes turn to Emma and she shifts awkwardly under their scrutiny. "As awful as Zelena can be, she was never as terrible as Regina at the height of her terror. There are dozens of people alive today that wouldn't be otherwise because I made that decision."
"Including me," realises Graham. "She said that what I was doing here should be the question, not what she was doing here," he explains to David and Snow, but his eyes are still on her.
Emma swallows. "Including you," she echoes.
There's a heavy silence around the table as everyone evaluates this. Graham and Emma keep staring at each other. She can't tell how he feels. She certainly doesn't know how she would feel if she was told she was dead in the original timeline.
She hopes Henry isn't listening outside the door. It would be a terrible thing for a child to learn, that the closest thing he has to a father had been murdered in another timeline by the woman who would have been his adoptive mother.
Finally, Graham clears his throat. "We should keep planning," he says. Emma watches him carefully, but his expression is firm. His death is something they can talk about later; right now, they have to prepare.
"Okay," says Emma. "Regina's come back to Storybrooke to discover that I have no plan in restoring the timeline. She's angry and is going to lash out at me – through the three of you, most likely." That is aimed at Graham and her parents.
"Not Henry?" checks Snow.
Emma hesitates. "She won't intentionally harm him – physically," she adds, thinking of the hurting boy she had first met. "He could be collateral damage, though." Collateral damage, she thinks, disgusted. But it would hardly be the first time she had endangered him while targeting someone else. While targeting Emma.
Three hours later, their home is once again empty. Emma finds Graham standing in the door to Henry's bedroom, watching him sleep. He's curled up into a ball, clutching a pillow. Henry's definitely sleeping, then – when he fakes it, he always is stretched out.
Emma slides in next to Graham and wraps her arms around him. "Are you okay?" she whispers.
Graham rests his head on her shoulder. "Not sure," he replies. "I keep looking at Henry and thinking, 'I could have missed this'."
Emma closes her eyes and squeezes him. He had missed this, once. "You're here now," she says. "I'm not going to let her take you again." She pulls back slightly so she can rest her hand on his chest, feeling the comforting thump-thump-thump that's been there ever since they stole the hearts back just after the Curse broke.
Graham breathes in deeply. "Was she like Zelena?"
Emma feels her heart drop at the thought. Graham never deserved what they did to him, but no one ever does. "Yes."
"Except Regina decided to kill me," Graham mutters, "while Zelena thought she could keep me enslaved. I don't know which of them is worse."
Emma wishes she had an answer for him. His heart keeps beating under her hand. "You're here with me now," she says, hoping it was the right thing.
Graham pulls her back into a hug. She buried her face in his shoulder and prays they can stop Regina before she can do any more damage.