You walk down the hall to the bedroom, where she's packing the few possessions she keeps here. It's a gesture, you know. How easy it would be to throw these things out, or have them sent to her after the fact. No, the packing is a way of showing you how hurt she is, and how permanent she imagines this damage to be.

You sigh, because damage is sometimes the only thing you're good at.

"Emma," you say, softly, as though she is a wild animal you don't wish to provoke. "Emma, wait." Oh, that's unexpected. You weren't going to ask her for anything. "Let me explain."

"Nothing to explain," she replies, not bothering to look round. She tosses messy blonde curls back over her shoulder, and even in that glimpse of her profile you can see the hurt on her face. It's been a long time since seeing her hurt or confused brought you any joy; the pain is almost unbearable tonight.

"I didn't mean it the way it sounded," you offer, in the half-baked tone of apology you hate in everyone else. "I didn't mean to say I wouldn't marry you."

"But that's exactly what you did say!" Emma exclaims, turning to wards you now with anger in her eyes and disappointment in the downward curve of her lips. "I wasn't asking. But you know—you have to know—how big a deal it is for me to even think about something like that. And you shot me down like a goddamned spy plane."

"Emma," you plead, her name falling like a curse from your lips. "I meant that I can't marry anyone, it's not you."

"Why not?" Emma snaps. "And don't tell me it's because of Henry. Wait," she adds, her face thought ful. "Is this about what you said to Mary Margaret last year? About losing some one and going to a dark place?"

Ah. There it is. The subject you've been dancing around with sex and fighting and outright distraction since this little affair began. Anyone other than Emma Swan would have expected answers, long ago, but then she's never will ing to volunteer her own; double standards have been so useful that way.

"I was married, before," you confess, and those words alone feel like stones being lifted from your shoulders. "It was not… a happy marriage."

And she gets it, right away. Damn her.

Emma, who can identify damage at fifty paces, who hears all the things you try so hard not to say out loud, is frozen with her hands gripping a ratty old t-shirt that she likes to sleep in.

"Did he…" she trails off, unable to formulate the question.

"I survived," is all you say; it's all you can say. You don't mention Daniel, or your mother, or the hundred other heartbreaks of cry ing yourself to sleep.

"Is he still, you know, around?" Emma asks, dropping the t-shirt and crossing the bedroom in determined strides. You can see where she's been crying—the redness of her eyes and the ghostly gray streaks on her cheeks. "Because if he is—"

"He's gone," you say, and still that truth brings you very lit tle comfort. "He's been gone for a long time. I don't need you to fight my battles, Emma."

It's the wrong thing to say, you know, and you see her tense just as she's reaching for your hand. This is the damage, done over and over until everyone leaves. You break them and then you throw them away, before they can do the same to you.

But Emma lets the tension go, and she takes your hand after all.

"I know you don't need me to," she says quietly, rubbing her thumb over your knuckles. It's so comforting, so unexpectedly exactly what you need in this moment that you honestly think you might cry. "But I'm always going to want to, Regina. I can't help it."

"My knight in shining armor, is that it?" You can't help but ask, and you're relieved when it sounds as playful as you need it to.

"Guess so," Emma says, lifting her shoulders in a shrug of either acceptance or defeat. "I'm sorry," she adds, because for her an apology is not painful, not something to be resisted at all costs.

"I'm sorry, too," you tell her, and you'll worry about the costs later.