"Regina?" Emma whispers, stunned at what she's just stumbled across.
She should have gone straight for the exit, is her first thought, but the sad little whimper is enough to jolt Emma's conscience. Her temporary hiding place is also where this madman is holding the Mayor captive.
Emma moves carefully across the floor in the semi-dark room, unwilling to risk another creaking floorboard like the one that just sent her scurrying for cover. She surveys the damage as she walks, wincing as she takes in the cut above Regina's eyebrow, the flushed skin that says her face has taken a few hits, with bruises waiting to develop. Emma might have smacked Regina in the face, once, but it doesn't make this any easier to see.
Squatting in front of the chair, Emma pulls the fancy scarf being used as a gag out of Regina's mouth and winces at the blood trickling from the corner. Untying her wrists (duct tape - crude but effective) Emma notices that one wrist is bent at an uncomfortable angle and already swelling.
"Can you walk?" She whispers, looking Regina in the eye and seeing only angry defiance looking back at her; that's a good sign.
"Yes," Regina hisses, although getting to her feet makes her cry out softly, and Emma moves in to support her without even thinking about it. "You can leave me, you know," Regina mutters, her head close to Emma's ear. "Nobody would blame you."
"I haven't left you behind yet," Emma mutters, hand on the doorknob. She can't pretend the fact that Regina is limping won't slow them down, but there's nothing she can do about it now, short of offering a piggyback ride. "Now, sshhhh, so we can get out of here."
They almost make it, too, but Jefferson is waiting at the first turn of the staircase, revolver in hand.
"Not so fast ladies," he sneers, pointing the gun at Emma's head and dragging Regina along behind her. "Tie her back up," he orders, when Regina has been roughly deposited on the chair.
"It's going to be okay," Emma says softly as she pulls the gag back into place and grudgingly applies new duct tape. "Trust me."
Jefferson leads her to the room full of hats, where Emma finally grasps the full extent of his madness. They spar back and forth about history versus fiction and whether a book can lie, and Emma hears the fragments of lines from Alice in Wonderland echoing in her head. Tonight, she's Alice, and this is a rabbit hole she had no intention of falling down. But she has to buy time, for herself and for Regina (for Henry, really, because no matter how tempted Emma is by the idea of being a real mom to him, her first instinct is to protect him from losing the one he already has).
He pleads with her to use her 'magic' and that's when Emma loses it, just a little. "If you believe the same things as my kid, Henry, then you should think the woman in that room is the Evil Queen. Why not get her to do the magic? I sure as hell don't have any," Emma points out, rubbing the black velvet between her fingers and wondering how the hell a person makes a top hat, in the first place.
"She doesn't have magic here," Jefferson sighs, bored with Emma's reluctance to accept his insanity. "That's the price she paid for casting the curse."
"Oh, of course," Emma says, rolling her eyes. It's not exactly the neatest job, but Emma fashions a kind of hat from the materials he forces on her. While Jefferson runs his fingers over it, she risks walking towards the telescope.
"It's not working," he growls, turning on Emma in an instant. She decides that if she can't punch her way out (the gun, that's the problem) then maybe a bit of girly crap will ease the way. She listens to him whine about the daughter who doesn't know him—something Emma, at least, can understand—and works out a plan while he does.
"Maybe you're right," Emma sighs, hanging her head. "Maybe I just need to try. Because if what you're saying is true, that woman in the other room has no right to raise my son. And if I can believe that…"
"That's right," he says excitedly, turning back to pick up the damn hat. It takes a second for Emma to shake off the longing, for the weird moment of wishing that Henry's tall tales might actually be true, but that's when she sees her chance and swings the heavy brass telescope straight at his jaw. She takes off before he's even done dropping to the floor.
"Regina!" Emma calls out as she races down the hall. "Come on," she urges, falling to her knees and tearing at Regina's bonds.
"Emma!" Regina has time to warn before Jefferson comes barrelling through the door. The force of the impact knocks Regina on her back with a force that can't do her injuries any good at all. Emma can't worry too much about it though, because the goddamned psycho bastard has grabbed her by the hair as she tries to get to his dropped gun.
They kick and punch and grab at each other, but Emma loses out at the last moment to a particularly vicious pull of her hair. She lifts one arm, uselessly, to shield herself from the gun now being waved in her direction. That's when she sees it, in the weak light from the gap in the curtains. The scar across Jefferson's neck, pink and faded but angrier than it has any right to be.
"Off with his head," he says, leering at Emma, and she swears that she sees his finger flex to pull the trigger when Regina launches herself at him. The Mayor can't weigh much more than a hundred and ten pounds soaking wet, but she launches herself at Jefferson like she's a goddamned linebacker. It knocks him on his ass, but like any good horror movie, he just keeps getting back up.
Regina, out of commission from her lunge across the small space, groans as Jefferson turns towards her, drawing his leg back to kick her where she lies. The sheer cowardice of kicking someone when they're already down makes Emma see red, and when she throws herself at Jefferson, it sends him tumbling out of the window in a sudden explosion of glass. Emma almost falls through after him, but she braces herself on the wall just in time.
"Holy shit," she gasps, as Regina stumbles into place beside her.
"You okay?" Regina huffs, even the short walk having exerted her. Emma looks for signs of further damage, but there's nothing obvious beyond the way Regina is flexing her fingers.
"Yeah," Emma says, still breathing pretty hard. Together they lean carefully forward, peering out of the broken window as daylight begins to creep over the horizon. There's no sign of Jefferson.
"No…" Regina groans. "No. He can't." She loses it a little thing, cursing and kicking out at the wall, until Emma is forced to restrain her and pull her away from the open window.
"Hey," Emma soothes. "Hey. He's not dead if he crawled away. But he'll be hurt, and I'll find him. Just let me get you a doctor."
"No!" Regina argues, squirming in Emma's grip. "I don't need a doctor. Let. Me. Go."
"Stop it!" Emma pleads. "Stop fighting me, or you're going to hurt yourself even worse."
Regina struggles a little longer and then relents, going limp in Emma's arms. She's muttering angrily to herself, and Emma can't quite make them out, but the words don't sound like English
"Regina," Emma pleads this time. "Come on, we have to get out of here."
"Take me home," Regina snaps, sounding more like her old self. Emma's surprised when the Mayor manages to walk unaided towards the door. "Now, Sheriff."
Emma knows the smart thing to do is stay and round up a badly injured suspect, but she's exhausted and more than a little battered and bruised. Regina should be going to a hospital, but that fight can wait for the car. Assuming, of course, that it's still in a fit state to drive. Tricky bastard might well have sabotaged it.
But her battered and bruised Bug is waiting in the driveway, keys conveniently on the front seat. Regina eases herself into the passenger seat without waiting for an invitation, and she's holding herself pretty stiffly as she waits for Emma to gun the engine.
"I can call ahead to Doctor Whale," Emma starts to offer, but Regina snaps her head round and the purpling bruises stop Emma in mid-thought.
"No doctors," Regina snaps. "Take me home."
Emma relents, because she's been fighting all night and she has no energy left. It takes all her concentration to get Regina back to her mansion without crashing the car, and as the town clock chimes Emma finds herself thinking of Mary Margaret, who's no doubt being led off to her wanted to be there, but Mary Margaret made her promise not to go. Funny how in Storybrooke, one way or another, Emma ends up forced to keep her promises.
"Here we go," Emma says, shivering in the early morning chill. The heater in her car hasn't worked in well over a year. "Can I at least come in and help you clean up? Henry shouldn't see you this way."
Regina looks like she wants to say no, but she's still cradling her injured wrist (which just looks bruised in the cold light of day, not bent and swollen like Emma thought last night). "Fine," Regina sighs. "But I can tend to myself. You get Henry ready for school."
Wow, Emma thinks. Regina has to be feeling pretty crappy to let Emma have any unsupervised time with the kid. Emma tries not to look too keen as they get out of the car and head into the house. Regina freezes at the sound of Henry's footsteps, nodding for Emma to take over as Regina slips through the kitchen and apparently up another set of stairs. Emma doesn't have time to dwell on the geography of the house though, because Henry launches himself at her for a hug and starts yammering a hundred miles an hour about some school crap she can't even pretend to keep up with.
So Emma pours some cereal and makes him check all his books are in his bag (not just his fairytales) and when he asks if she'll walk him to school, she really wants to say yes. But Regina has been suspiciously quiet upstairs, and Emma's conscience won't let her leave.
"Off you go, kid," Emma says, ruffling his hair. "I have some work to do, on your Mom's orders."
"Gathering intel?" Henry asks hopefully.
"Something like that," Emma says with a shrug. She feels kind of weird watching him run out the door, the domesticity is definitely freaking her out. Yawning, Emma seizes her chance to walk up the main staircase and seek out the injured Mayor.
Emma finds Regina in her bedroom, wrapped in a black silk robe and applying some kind of ointment to the bruises on her face. Emma doesn't wait for an invite, because they're pretty far past that now, so she just walks right up and touches Regina's arm lightly.
That Regina doesn't flinch away from the contact is all Emma needs to know.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Emma asks, her voice softer than she means it to be. "You could be concussed, and what about your ribs?"
"Stop fussing, Miss Swan," Regina warns. "You're a sheriff, not a paramedic."
"Is there anything I can do?" Emma asks. "Because otherwise I'm just going to send the State Troopers after Jefferson. He's too dangerous for me to take on alone."
"There's…" Regina starts to say, but she stops, watching Emma cautiously in the mirror.
"What?" Emma urges. "Let me do something, please." She has no idea why it's so important to her, but she wants to do more than drop Regina off and head home to sleep. There has to be more from a night like last night, Emma thinks. Something has to change, and it feels like it's already beginning to.
"Oh, for God's—" Regina is spoiling for a fight, but Emma tugs her away from the mirror and looks her in the eye. "Very well. There are some bruises on my back I can't reach," Regina admits grudgingly. "Put this on them. Carefully."
She hands over the pot of ointment, and Emma smiles gratefully. This is all she needed, and she motions for Regina to loosen her robe. "I can't put it on what I can't see," Emma explains, and Regina reluctantly reaches for the knot in her belt.
What Emma hasn't banked on is Regina being naked beneath the robe. As black silk gives way to lightly-tanned skin, Emma feels her mouth go dry. She forces herself to focus, staring at Regina's back for the promised bruising. The angry purple marks are painfully obvious in an instant.
"Christ," Emma mutters. "You really took a beating, Regina."
Regina shudders at Emma's words, making her wish she could take them back. "I mean," Emma blusters on. "It's kind of impressive that you're still standing."
That makes Regina snort, and forgetting the rule she just devised, Emma looks up. Regina is facing the mirror again, and after their eyes lock in the reflection, Emma can't stop herself from looking down. Although Regina has folded her arms in an attempt at modesty, there's no disguising how much of her is now on display.
"Oh," Emma says, struck a little dumb. Regina is stunning, bruising or not. Emma smears some ointment on her fingers, surprised by how nice it smells, and needing any excuse to touch Regina, starts rubbing tenderly over her back.
"Miss Swan," Regina says, her voice dangerously low. "Are you sure you're being appropriate?"
"Do you want me to be?" Emma asks, holding her breath as she waits for a response. Regina simply quirks an eyebrow, and that's all the cue Emma needs to drop the stupid ointment and start kissing the back of Regina's neck. It draws a delicious chuckle from Regina, and Emma can feel the vibration of the laugh as she presses closer.
"Not appropriate at all," Regina mocks as Emma grabs gently at her hips. Emma kisses along Regina's shoulder until Regina turns and wraps her arms around Emma's neck.
"This isn't—" Emma tries to put it into words. "I didn't come here to…"
"Take advantage of me?" Regina asks, her look smoldering. She doesn't look like someone who had a hellish night. "Trust me, you couldn't even if you wanted to."
"What is that?" Emma asks, before claiming a kiss from Regina's lips this time. "Some weird kind of challenge?"
"Oh, shut up," Regina sighs, and when she kisses Emma there's nothing quick or tender about it. She presses Emma's lips firmly with her tongue, demanding an entrance that Emma is only too happy to grant. Regina kisses like it's an act of war - overwhelming and not a little devastating. Emma is the one who can barely stand when she finally breaks away.
"Are you going to kiss it all better?" Regina challenges, pushing Emma towards the bed. "Is that your plan?" She runs her fingers through Emma's hair, pulling out the loose ponytail and letting the hair fall loose over Emma's shoulders. "Better," Regina says with a smirk.
And that's when Emma knows she has precisely zero chance of calling the shots. Regina's hands are on Emma's thighs then, tipping her back onto the mattress, where Regina kneels over her in complete domination.
"What about you?' Regina whispers. "What comfort do you need, Emma?" Regina strokes one steady finger down Emma's throat until she's tracing the outline of Emma's breasts through her black tanktop.
"Just… touch me," Emma blurts out, because she's more than a little overwhelmed. Suddenly, Regina's hands are everywhere, stripping off Emma's clothes and stroking and pinching at every inch of flesh she exposes.
"Yes," Emma hisses as she feels Regina's naked body lying on top of her own. She raises her thigh and presses it against Regina, rewarded by a gasp and Regina starting to grind herself against it. It's a handy little ego boost that Regina is already so wet, and Emma cups Regina's breasts with something approaching reverence. "Let me know if I'm hurting you," Emma adds, kissing Regina's neck.
She's expecting another glib comment, but instead Regina presses one hand against Emma's cheek and looks her directly in the eye. There's some real emotion in those dark eyes, and for a moment that terrifies Emma.
"You really do care, don't you?" Regina asks, obviously curious. "How strange."
"Shut up," Emma growls, throwing Regina's own words back at her. Using her arms for leverage, she flips them over, pinning Regina beneath her. "Do you want me to kiss it better or not?"
"Oh, I absolutely do," Regina purrs, and Emma has really no choice but to comply.