Regina groaned as she woke up in familiar, yet also unfamiliar, surroundings. It was still dark out, and the air had a heavy, musty quality. She sat up, groaning again as her back left one of the hardest surfaces she had ever had the displeasure of laying on. Squinting through the darkness, she could just barely distinguish the outline of the bars that held her captive once more. And something else. A dark figure… peering in at her… smirking.
At first she thought it was Gold. But it as her eyes adjusted further, she realized it wasn't. It was someone whose visit could result in so much more pain than if he had dropped by. Because standing there, in jeans, a red leather jacket, and a tight tank top with blonde curls cascading down her back—not to mention an infuriating amused expression gracing her face—was Emma Swan.
"What—what do you want?" Regina asked cautiously. It was clear to her she was back in jail… back in the future… and in that future, she knew that Emma Swan had already abandoned her. Emma hadn't believed in her innocence, so why could she possibly be here?
"Regina," Emma breathed tenderly.
Regina was still cautious and alert, but the earliest hints of relief began seeping into the corners of her expression. She approached the bars slowly at first, but when she saw that Emma didn't flinch or shy away or show any hint of her previous suspicions, Regina's steps grew faster. "What are you—"
"No time for that," Emma cut her off abruptly. Emma's hands began moving quickly, before Regina could even tell what she was doing. The sound of metal scraping on metal was followed by a loud CLANK, and then the door to the cell swung open. "Shit, someone could've heard that," Emma muttered. She grabbed Regina's arm to pull her along, but dropped the arm immediately when the older girl flinched. "Sorry, I forgot. Come on." Emma turned in the opposite direction and began sprinting for the door at the end of the hallway.
Forgot? Regina thought to herself as she began jogging after, maintaining a slower and more cautious pace than Emma, still not sure what to make of all of this, and deep in thought. "Forgot what?" she hissed, hoping Emma could still hear her up ahead.
"Shit, Regina, can't you run any faster? Maybe if you'd spent your high school years in sneakers instead of heels you wouldn't be holding us back right now," Emma taunted, knowing her words would spur Regina into action. The older girl could always be counted on for trying to prove the world wrong.
As expected, Regina began running faster, even passing Emma right before the exit. Shoving the door open with all of her might, she nearly stumbled seeing the beautiful pinkish hue of the sky indicating that the dawn was coming. She held the door open for Emma, letting the younger girl pass her up, since Regina wasn't quite sure what the plan was from here anyway.
"There," Emma huffed out, nodding toward a mustard yellow Volkswagen Bug.
Locking on to her next destination, Regina sprinted toward the car after Emma. She threw open the passenger side door as Emma ran around to the driver's side. Glancing to the back seat, Regina saw a car seat, and inside it was tucked a young Henry, fast asleep and smiling, chest rising and falling contentedly. Regina's lips were pulled into a smile of their own as she quietly settled into the passenger seat and shut the door behind her. Emma started the engine, but Regina stopped Emma's hand with her own before she could shift gears.
"Regina, we're not out of the woods yet. We need to get moving," Emma cast a worried glance back at the police station to emphasize her point.
"Just… give me an explanation first. Please," Regina's beseeching expression was not one that Emma had ever been able to easily refuse.
Emma rolled up the sleeve of her red leather jacket. Never had Regina expected to see… that was HER bracelet with the apple charm dangling from Emma's wrist. What was Emma doing with it? Regina reached for her own wrist and found that indeed it was devoid of any jewelry.
"Did you—steal—my bracelet?"
Emma scoffed. "Yes, Regina, that makes sense. I broke in at night and stole your bracelet from jail then waited there so I could break you out and tell you about it." Casting another concerned look back toward the police station, Emma decided she probably should resort more to a direct explanation rather than her usual sarcastic remarks. "Two nights ago, we were teenagers. Your mother found us together on the couch, and sent you upstairs before kicking me out. She threatened me—told me to leave town. Do you remember any of this?"
Regina nodded slowly. "I didn't know about the last part, but the rest, of course. But how do you—"
"Shh, I'm getting there, and we don't have time."
The older girl looked wounded.
Emma placed her hand on Regina's thigh and squeezed. "Just hear me out. After I left, I was going to leave, I really was. I didn't remember anything about the future or the past at that point, and I thought life might be easier for you without me around. So I went to my treehouse… our treehouse I suppose… to pack a few things. And there, for some reason… call it fate, or luck, or magic… I found your bracelet—the one I gave you long before. And a memory flashed in my mind—of giving you the bracelet, of leaving you. Everything rushed back—the abusive relationships, Henry, the accusations, the trial—everything. Including how I let you down again and again. I slept there in the treehouse, determined the next morning to rescue you so that we could finally be together. I was going to finally take you away from that awful situation you were living in. You were of an age that you could run away from it all, and your mother had come up with a way so that I could leave everything behind too. I headed toward the high school, where I knew you would be bright and early, but then I saw you run out of the school. I followed you, confused, and listened in from a hiding place as you talked to Gold. I knew you were in danger, and I stayed close in case anything happened. I kissed you, not knowing what would happen, but knowing that in that world you had been a lot more reluctant to kiss me than you had in the future—knowing that there had to be a reason, and that at the very least, it would be a defiant act toward your mother, which I am always a fan of. I had hoped that she would also be unable to harm you with a witness there. I never expected the kiss to bring us back here, but when it did, I knew what I needed to do to make things right. And YOU stood up to your mother, Regina. You finally stood up to her. I am so proud of you."
"But I needed your help. Standing up to her only got me into a more dismal situation."
"We all need a little help sometimes. But that doesn't mean you didn't finally accomplish what you should've done many years ago. You showed her that you weren't going to lay down and go out without a fight. I always knew you had it in you."
A hint of a blush crept onto Regina's face, and Emma smiled, bending over to give the older girl a quick peck on the lips.
"Growing up, Regina, we both faced terrible situations. We both faced manipulation, torment, and physical and emotional abuse at the hands of those who were supposed to love us. We had a common enemy. But now, if you'll have me, we have a common future." Emma searched Regina's face for confirmation and found it in her eyes, in her smile. She revved the engine and shifted gears.
And so, the two girls sped off in an old, yellow Bug ready to conquer the world just as police sirens began sounding behind them.