THE DEBT

By Scribes and Scrolls

Author's note: I plan for this to be a long multi-part story following the end of the curse. This will be an M-rated Swan Queen by the time it's done. With enormous thanks to my beautiful beta reader and brain-storming idea-supplier, indiana. Reviews will speed the writing process, I promise.

PART ONE: DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE

Emma Swan sprinted with bruising pace down the main street of Storybrooke. If she knew Regina Mills, she'd be making her escape right about now. She had to move it. Fast.

Around her all hell was breaking loose. Stores were getting windows smashed as anger was turning outwards. She'd already spied three short-statured miners brawling in the street, nine sheets to the wind - the bone of contention apparently being someone called "Stealthy".

Gepetto was scuttling towards Granny's as fast as his ancient legs would carry him, a permanently startled look on his face. Seeking out his newly remembered son, no doubt.

But joy was thin on the ground now.

Emma gritted her teeth. All this because of her. The sheriff's hand tightened on the sword she carried. The heavy weight was almost comforting as she felt its power. It tingled beneath her fingertips, and it firmed her cold resolve.

Everywhere she turned she could feel an undercurrent, a white noise, of rage towards Regina. Her name was a curse now. She could feel the bleak clouds which had been gathering over the town and its inhabitants starting to shift, and the storm was bearing down right on the mayor's house. Not long now before the tempest hit. Emma was hellbent on getting there first.

The blonde set her jaw grimly. She knew some people had stopped to stare as she bolted past - the sight of the "White Knight", sword in hand, blazing towards the Evil Queen's home doubtlessly gave them pause.

No one stopped her. A few people even called out bloodthirsty encouragement. Her lip curled. She ignored them all.

Sweat was now pouring down her face, her lungs burning by the time she charged up the path to the mayoral residence.

She could see Regina's gleaming black Mercedes in the drive. Its opulence seemed to almost mock the sheriff. Oh yes, Regina Mills had made damned sure she wanted for nothing in her new life while everyone else suffered. The glossy, ebony doors were open, the boot popped. Going somewhere fast, it would seem.

Not fast enough, lady.

She thumped on the door.

Silence.

She hollered: "Regina! Let me in NOW! Goddamnit!"

She belted the door with the rounded, gilt-edged handle on her sword and the banging echoed around the home's lower level.

More silence.

Emma grabbed the weapon in both hands, angling it in the crack between the door and frame and pivoted hard until her sinews screamed.

The splintering sound was ear-shattering and Emma knew on any other day the mayor would have blown a gasket if she'd seen the damage wrought.

But this wasn't any other day.

Shouldering open the door, then slamming it shut behind her with a satisfying crash, Emma raced up the stairs, head snapping about as she looked into each room she came to. Master bedroom, probably. Packing. Even evil queens need spare underwear for emergency escapes.

Sure enough, a startled Regina lifted her head, arms full of clothes she was thrusting inelegantly into a suitcase on her bed, and their eyes met.

"Miss Swan, here to see me off?" she purred, the flinty fear in her eyes not quite hidden. Brown eyes flicked to Emma's sword. "Or to just finish me off?"

She leaned forward in a rare position of supplication, shifting her hair, offering up a smooth, bare neck. She bent over and resumed packing. "Be sure to swing true," she drawled.

Emma scowled and grabbed the woman's arm, pulling her viciously to her feet. "Come with me. NOW."

Regina snatched her bruised arm from the pincer grip and glared in fury. "I will not be holed up in some primitive dungeon while the baying mob works out 50 innovative ways to torture me!"

"REGINA!" Emma growled, ignoring her, snatching at her arm again and bodily shoving her towards the door. "NOW! Or so help me..."

The brunette opened her mouth for a nasty retort but was drowned out by a crash. Then another. The window they were standing near suddenly exploded into shards of glass. A perfect red apple spun drunkenly across the floor to stop at the women's feet.

"They're pelting me with my apples?" Regina gasped, askance, rushing to the window.

"GET DOWN!" Emma roared, dropping to her hands and knees and wrenching Regina down beside her, as another vicious red missile just missed her nose.

"Those bastards," Regina spat, face stricken.

She began to rise to peer out but Emma yanked her back to the floor. Emma then slid up slowly and dared a glimpse outside, snapping her head back suddenly as more apples flew through the window, exploding into a sloppy mess down the far wall.

Then an angry, throaty roar of a chainsaw began and Regina paled. "Oh NO!, no, no, no!"

She turned white and for a brief moment Emma's and Regina's eyes locked. The pain on the mayor's face was palpable, visceral, and Emma couldn't help but remember a time when she had brutally enacted exactly the same punishment on Regina, just to win a debating point.

The aggressive snarl of the machine changed pitch and it was obviously now biting into Regina's precious apple tree. A chant began: "Die, die, die..."

"Time to go." Emma said tightly. "That tree won't occupy the mob for long."

Regina hesitated, debating, eyes flicking across Emma's face.

"Really Regina? I won't ask again! Now MOVE IT." Emma crawled forward, pulling Regina painfully by the wrist until she scrambled forward. The brunette was half standing, half crawling and, absurdly, now reaching to take her Louis Vuitton luggage.

Emma slapped the woman's hand off the case. "Don't be a fool," she hissed. Emma turned, wrenched open the bedroom door and stilled, tilting her head cautiously. She looked left and right, seeing and hearing nothing new. The morbid, throaty drone outside continued unabated.

The mayor hesitated, eyes flicking longingly towards her luggage. Regina snaked a hand inside and pulled out a small, worn leather satchel, pocketing it in her tailored black pants.

The blonde glanced back. "Where's the back way out of here?"

Regina pointed down the stairs to a dark passage. "That way," she said, her voice low.

They were halfway down the stairs, Emma keeping a firm grip on the brunette's arm, when they heard the almighty groan and crash. Emma glanced back and saw tears springing to the mayor's eye, her mouth a thin, hard line. "Those bastards," Regina hissed. "To destroy such beauty."

Emma bit back a smart-ass reply about it being just a tree and how Regina had some pretty warped priorities. She dragged her captive towards the back door. They were almost there when the mansion's front door flew open behind them. Emma dropped quickly to her knees and hauled Regina with her as they scrambled behind a cabinet to inspect the invaders.

Chants of "Kill the witch" could be heard and a posse of frightened faces filled the door frame, clearly trying to give each other Dutch courage. Even now they hesitated at the top step. Emma could make out Granny in the fray, along with Ashley and Leroy. Behind them an enormous creature with grey skin loped up towards the house. "A troll!" Emma whispered in astonishment. "An actual freaking troll!"

"Harold," Regina pursed her lips. "I wondered when he'd get here."

Emma snapped a look at her. "Friend of yours?" she muttered disbelievingly.

"Not... exactly." Regina replied, with a sour look. "I introduced him to gravity once." She frowned. "It didn't stick."

The brunette then turned and scrabbled to a lower level, pointing Emma to another door.

Emma slid up to vertical, back pressed flat against the wall beside the door, looking down at the crouched mayor, a finger warningly to her lips. And then she flicked her eyes across and gently edged aside a lace curtain covering a window next to the door.

The sight outside was absurd. Emma had to blink twice to believe it. Half a dozen dwarves - waving pick-axes. Fifty or so Storybrooke residents - and this batch was showing no fear. Plus a large wolf. Another troll. Or was it the same one? And two hairy feet. She peered up. And two knees. Higher. Oh hell. Ah, one extra, extra large giant.

Emma dropped her gaze down to Regina.

"We're gonna need another exit," she stated flatly.

The brunette looked at her mutinously, eyes flicking back to the door knob.

Emma shook her head. "No," the sheriff snapped, tightening her grip on her sword in annoyance. She hauled the mayor back to her feet by the armpit and growled: "I KNOW you must have another way out. No games."

Regina's eyes narrowed but she pointed wordlessly to her library. Emma watched as the mayor headed for it, running straight to the shelves. She selected three books in a particular order: War of the Worlds, The Laws of Magic and Economics: The Allocation of Scarce Resources To Meet Unlimited Wants.

Emma, who had followed her, shot her eyebrows up at the latter title.

"Well I didn't want Henry finding this, did I?" the mayor replied defensively at the unspoken question.

With the trio of books missing, the shelves suddenly slid open revealing a spiral stairway leading down into a cellar. Emma squinted and saw in the dim light an apple cider press. Bottles of cider lined the walls, labels perfectly aligned, stating contents, vintage, year.

Very anal. Very Regina.

Huh.

Emma had always wondered where the brunette made this potent stuff.

The mayor ran down the short, swirling flight of steps and then suddenly dropped to the floor, flipped on her back, clearly indifferent to dirtying her already mussed black-and-white blazer, and pushed herself underneath the machine. It was a cumbersome contraption that looked half a century out of date.

The sheriff stared at Regina's legs, wriggling in frustration. Once they would have caught her eye with their effortless, sexual swagger. But she could no longer unknow the things she knew. Those shapely legs were attached to a vicious, punitive woman. Emma's eyes glinted in anger. She would not forget that.

She watched the limbs twisting a little longer as the mayor reached further under the press. "Any day now, Regina," she sniped, her irritation rising as her adrenalin levels began to drop.

"Do you want to do this, dear?" a muffled voice barked. Emma resisted the urge to kick her in the sneery little ... shin.

Regina finally found what she was looking for and flicked a switch. A sound of rumbling could be heard in the distance. She rose, wiping grease off her hands with a distasteful look. Her expression faltered when she caught the rage in Emma's eye. Her eyes dropped to the floor and she waited.

"Now what?" Emma snapped.

A door the sheriff had not even seen before slid to one side in the back wall. The blonde stared, mouth open, at the impossibly long tunnel stretched beyond it.

They heard distant shouts and the sheriff realised whatever fears the baying mob had had, they'd obviously overcome them. They were ransacking the mansion with a great deal of glee. And getting closer. The sheriff ran up the spiral stairs to the bookcase entrance, staring out. "How do I close this wall?" she demanded urgently.

When she got no response she glanced back down to realise the brunette had already bolted into the other passageway.

"REGINA!" She hollered.

"Hit the black button and it'll close," the mayor's distant voice called back. "And damn it, Miss Swan, STOP SHOUTING!"

Hell she was fast. Emma quickly spun around again and scoured the wall looking for a black button, finally finding it high above her head, near the ceiling. She jumped and just hit it, seeing the heavy shelving slide into place, her eye catching a flash of colour as the first intruders entered the hallway outside.

None saw her but she could faintly hear shouts of "Where is the bitch?" as the wall finally snicked back into place.

That was too close.

"Regina," she hissed into the bleak vacuum, shouldering her sword.

There was no reply.