Chapter 40

Regina sat atop her steed, looking back over her men. Emma sat next to her on her own horse. It had been a long night for the Queen. After her encounter with Rumple, she slowly walked back to her and Emma's tent, thinking back over what he had said. He was obviously familiar with the spell. Though, if he weren't, Regina would have been greatly surprised.

When she finally re-entered her tent, she silently got undressed and slipped into bed beside Emma. The blonde wrapped an arm around the Queen's waist and brought her close, kissing her neck in her sleep. And while that relaxed Regina a surprising amount, it also brought back her earlier trepidation. Many things could go wrong with the spell once it was cast. Emma would need to stay safe.

Then, when Regina woke, her back was pressed against Emma's front. The blonde's arm was wrapped around her waist just as it was when she had fallen asleep. Once the Queen had woken up enough to begin the normal fight of getting Emma up, she began that task. And finally, they were dressed in their armor once again. They exited their tent and Regina waved her hand, causing the tent to disappear in a cloud of dark, purple smoke. The couple turned and mounted their horses which had been brought to them by two of Regina's guards.

And now, the Queen's army was positioned to march. They had been since the sun had risen over the hill. It was only just a few moments ago that regiments of Snow and Charming's army had begun taking up their positions. The Queen and Charming had settled on an interesting arrangement for their troops that morning. One faction would be placed in a square with one of Snow and Charming's faction placed directly next to them. When completed, their army would look like a massive black and silver chess board.

Regina let out a sigh as she saw Charming galloping on his horse towards Emma, Graham, and herself. And as she saw that Snow wasn't with him, she rolled her eyes and her mouth sat into a frown.

"The day before a war and his wife can't even get out of bed on time?" Regina said disdainfully.

"More like their entire army can't get out of bed," Emma mumbled to Regina. The Queen smiled, an eyebrow raised.

When Charming finally reached them, he let out an exasperated sigh. "My wife will be with us momentarily," he said. "She went out for a walk last night and didn't return until very late."

"Did she hurt herself on the walk?" Regina asked, through clenched teeth. "That could be the only plausible reason for being so late."

"You need not concern yourself with-" Charming began, refusing to look at the Queen.

"She is holding up two armies. I will go fetch her myself," Regina said. She nudged Helios' sides with her heels, and already knowing what the Queen wanted, the horse took off at a gallop through the ranks of the men around her. The men quickly got out of her way when they saw she wouldn't slow down for anything. Some looked up at her in confusion, and some in fear.

When she broke free from the clusters of men, she quickly spotted Snow's tent. In fact, Regina noted it was very hard to miss as it was the only tent still standing. Snow's horse was standing outside, it's silver hair shining in the sunlight.

She approached quickly and dismounted Helios, not even bothering to tie her to anything. As she burst into the tent, she didn't spot Snow right away. As she looked around, she saw the younger woman sitting quietly on her bed looking down at her hands, fully dressed in her white, leather armor. When Regina first saw the woman on the battlefield in such attire, she wondered exactly how she survived. But after a moment, she assumed that the Blue Fairy probably enchanted her armor against swords and arrows. Not as powerful of protection as what Emma and herself had, but strong nonetheless. Next to her sat her bow and arrows and next to those were a sheathed sword. Snow's hair was partially pulled back and her lips their famous red color. When Regina cleared her throat, Snow didn't even so much as flinch.

"Care to get over yourself and hurry a little?" Regina said, clearly displeased with her. "Or are you planning on sitting here until everything is over?" Snow continued to sit, staring at her hands. "Should we just leave without you?"

The two women stayed silent for a moment, Regina staring at Snow and Snow refusing to look into the Queen's eyes. When the silence was finally broken, it was Snow who spoke first.

"You need me," she said quietly. "You couldn't leave me here." Snow slowly looked up and Regina saw that her lips were set in a frown, though her eyes showed no malice. "We both know I'm not returning to my kingdom, don't we?"

Regina's face remained stoic. A smirk didn't grace her lips, an eyebrow didn't raise. "What do you mean?" she said in a low voice.

"I couldn't sleep. I…followed you out of the camp," Snow said quietly. "I got quite good at sneaking while you were at the castle with father and even better when I was on the run. I knew you wouldn't hear me. You reached the pond and I saw you sit on the rock. I hid behind some of the trees surrounding it so you wouldn't see me and then…he showed up. I heard everything you said."

"Snow…" Regina said slowly. She walked over to the younger woman and stood in front of her. She fought the urge to bend down to look at her in the eye. Even if they were the only two in the tent, she still couldn't bring herself to truly put herself on her level.

"At first, I was angry. How dare you even consider giving my life for your selfishness? I stayed there after you left and kept thinking about it. You're protecting Emma, aren't you?"

"Yes," the Queen said.

"You made the right choice by using me, you know," she said. "You know I would do anything to keep her safe. Give up my own life for that. And you also know that she can live without me, but not you." The two remained silent for a moment more. "I've accepted what is going to happen."

Regina looked at the woman in front of her and tilted her head. It was times like this that whoever Snow's mother was shined through. And she hoped that maybe some of herself was in the girl too. She sat next to her on the bed, but still kept a distance, not wanting to be too familiar with her.

"Are you scared?" Regina asked quietly.

"Of course," Snow said back, just as quiet. "What's…going to happen? When you cast the spell."

Regina let out a sigh and allowed her shoulders to slump just the smallest bit. "It's very complicated," she said.

"Then help me understand."

"Several things must be in place. This spell is unlike anything I've ever done. The person's soul who must destroy his must be strong. They must be both powerful and unwilling to back down. And they must have some part of their soul intertwined with caster's."

"And who better than me for you?" Snow said quietly.

"I…suppose. But there must also be a direct line between the person whose soul is being used and the one casting the spell. A bolt of lightning will shoot from me to the one I'm taking the soul from. Nothing can be touching me. And nothing can get in the way. Or else their soul will be taken in place of the intended one."

Regina looked out of the corner of her eye to see if Snow understood the implications of such a problem. After a moment, worry clouded over her face. "Emma," she said quietly. "If she sees magic coming towards me, she'd try to block it."

"Which is why you must ensure that she is with James when the time comes. She cannot be near you, and more importantly, me. He's going to have to hold her back."

Snow swallowed heavily and nodded. "Does Emma know…about this spell?"

"I believe she has surmised that a spell will be cast to defeat him, but she doesn't know the specifics of it. When we arrive at the new encampment tonight, I will speak to you, Emma, Charming, and a few others about what will happen once we enter Rumple's estate. And that is where I will tell Emma she and Charming must stand next to one another. After that, the burden is on you to ensure that Charming will keep her in place."

"And…what happens to me once the spell hits?" she asked quietly.

"Your soul will be taken from you and I'll have control over it. You'll know what is happening; you'll be able to see everything. I'll guide you to Rumple, and once your souls touch, both souls will shatter."

"Then…that's it?" Snow said. "After that, everyone is safe?"

"Once he's been destroyed, everyone will be able to live as they did."

"Is it possible for me to control my own soul? So you don't…have to put yourself at risk like that."

Regina looked directly into Snow's eyes. "I'm afraid you aren't capable of that," she said. "Only the strongest of souls can. Only those with the will to do what must be done. And even though you say you're ready to give your life for this, no one is ever ready to die so easily. So no. I'll be with you the entire time."

Snow gave a weak laugh. "How comforting. The woman who has been trying to kill me for years will be with me when it all ends. Thank you, Regina."

Regina rolled her eyes and looked to the other side of the tent. "When it happens, you wouldn't want to be alone. Knowing you'd be completely by yourself the moment you die is simply…horrifying. Trust me, you'll be glad it's me."

"Yes," Snow said. "I'm sure I will be." Regina looked at the younger woman out of the corner of her eye again. She knew this was a lot to take in.

"Do you understand what I mean when I say that your soul will shatter?" she asked. Snow shook her head. "Your soul resides in your heart. When a soul is taken from one's body, tiny fissures begin to form across the surface of the victim's heart. And once the soul has died, the heart will break. Once a heart is broken like that, nothing can save you."

"What about True-" began Snow.

"True Love's Kiss?" Regina said. "It may be possible, but a heart is not repairable. I know of nothing that can fix a shattered heart," she said sadly. And she had certainly looked. All of the books in her library recorded only attempts to fix them. But just as she suspected, nothing ever worked. Not True Love's Kiss, not the most powerful healing spell, not even ingredients that have some of the most powerful healing properties in the world. There was no coming back from this spell. And even if True Love's Kiss did wake the person up, would it be worth it? Regina thought it surely wasn't. They'd only be walking around. There would be no feeling, no sensation, no motivation or drive. No. If she had to choose between the two, she would most certainly wish to die.

"So once you cast the spell, it's over," Snow said, brining Regina back from her thoughts.

Regina nodded and looked at Snow again. It was strange to her. She was so at ease with sacrificing herself. So confident that it would work. It reminded her of Emma. There was never any doubt in Emma's mind that Regina would not return with her to the Dark Palace.

Almost as if Snow could sense her thoughts, she opened her mouth to speak. "I haven't allowed my daughter to live for too long," she said. "You've shown her things I never could, you've treated her how I want her treated. And even though we're practically sworn to hate one another, I know this is the right choice for me. Of course I'm scared. I'm going to be leaving Emma…leaving James. I'll even be leaving you. But if I had to be with someone in those last moments, it would be the three of you. And that's where I'll be."

Regina nodded her head. Strangely, she understood. There wasn't anything she wouldn't do for Emma. She knew that with all of her heart. And that is why she had made this decision. From the very moment she knew of Rumpelstiltskin's plan, she knew this would be the outcome. It would break Emma's heart, but she knew Emma would understand eventually. That she was doing all of this to protect her.

"But now we need to go," Snow said. She rose swiftly, walking out of the tent. Regina looked around, still not exactly understanding Snow's reaction. Yes, the girl had turned somewhat selfless in recent years. And as the Queen kept thinking about it, she knew she would do anything for Emma just as she would.

Regina walked out behind Snow only to see that she had already mounted her steed and was galloping towards the armies. She shook her head and mounted Helios, following Snow White towards what was sure to be a long march to an even longer war.

It was a long ride already. Regina knew they had been marching for at least three hours, yet it felt like six. Charming insisted on riding in front of Regina with Snow. And when Emma refused to ride with them (which Regina saw Snow almost flinch at), Charming took off at a gallop, not even giving the command for the armies to follow him.

And so was nearly the entire ride. Emma attempted to talk with Regina about why her mother was late, but Regina merely said her mother was taking far too long getting her armor on. When Emma saw it was clear that Regina was not in the mood to talk, she went to ride with Graham, leaving Regina to her thoughts.

Her meeting with Rumple last night was weighing heavily on her mind. He knew too much about the spell. But as she thought last night, it would be strange if he hadn't known. But still, she had hoped that since she had the book containing it, he wouldn't know as much. It was ridiculous, she knew, to hope for such a thing. But even now there was still a fair amount of the young and naive Regina still within her.

But even that version of herself couldn't understand Snow's ability to accept what she had overheard. Perhaps she had already prepared herself for the possibility of dying in battle. And now that she knew it was certain, she could discretely say her goodbyes, make amends with her family, namely Emma. Show love to her husband, hoping that instead of the war, he would remember their time alone when he thought back to her last days. Perhaps that was it.

And yet, some part of her was sad for Snow's willingness to give her life. When she was a child, when she needed protecting, no one would have sacrificed themselves. In some way, she believed, she was almost jealous of Emma. Yes, her parents were smothering. And yes, they never let her leave the castle but on very rare occasions. But they cared. They never hurt her in any physical way. Perhaps emotionally, but even then she was sure it was unintentional.

She smirked grimly to herself then, thinking of what her parents would do if it were her life in danger. They had no troops to rally to her cause. And even if they did, she highly doubted they would. Her mother would punish her severely just as she always did when something went wrong. It didn't even matter if it was her fault. She would feel the sharp sting of her mother's magic. When she thought back, she noticed that her mother had a particular fancy for using it right above her heart. Sometimes, when her mother lost control of herself, there would be a gash across her chest. Blood would seep through her clothes and her mother would only sneer at her, calling one of the maids to tend to her wounds.

If her mother were there, she'd seek the dagger out and kill the Dark One herself, not caring if her daughter died in the process. All that mattered to her was the acquisition of power.

And her father. He was a good man in one sense of the word. But in another, he was the greatest coward in the entire realm. Even more so than Rumpelstiltskin, if one asked Regina. When he knew she was being abused by either her mother or the king, he would make excuses for them, never helping her. When he saw her bleeding, he would call someone else to tend to her, never strong enough to take care of her himself. He had not the strength to ride into battle. And even if he did, he wouldn't. He was born a noble and nobles like him never make good warriors.

If he were there, he would be at their estate, tending to the horses and wishing her and her mother the best. Regina knew it wasn't that he didn't love her as a father should. It was that he couldn't take on the duties and responsibilities of being a proper father. And for that, she was truly sad.

She had thought of it before, the many differences between herself and Emma. It was, in one way, what made them so perfect for each other. One of them had a family who loved her too much while the other had a family that cared more for power. One was born to be the savior of their time while the other was supposedly going to destroy the entire realm. They were two sides of the same coin. And that is why she loved her so much.

The Queen's thoughts continued this way, only being interrupted by Emma coming to ride in silence by her once in a while. The armies didn't stop for food or water. They didn't stop for anything. And far sooner than Regina could have hoped for, she saw the thick line of trees that would separate their camp from the next day's battlefield.

Snow came up to ride beside her as she saw the siege weapons lined up and a few tents surrounding them. Emma rode up on her other side and Charming and Graham soon followed.

As a figure in a red cloak exited one of the tents, Regina smiled. Beside her, she heard Snow let out the tiniest whisper of "Red," and took off at a gallop, leaving the rest of the armies behind.

A/N: And here's the next update! Thank you so much to everyone who reviewed with their guesses for who it's going to be. While you didn't change who it's going to be in the end, you did give some interesting reasoning behind who you expected. So thanks!

Also, another thank you to the wonderful person who read this beforehand. You know who you are. And you know you're the best.

Please review, favorite, follow, and message me! Your next update should come more quickly that way.