"Something bad," Henry had answered shakily in response to Emma's question.
Emma looked at him, her son, before looking around the hospital room at the expectant faces of the other people standing there staring out the window, watching the purple cloud roll through the town - a freight train ready to run rampant over their lives.
"Something bad alright," Emma had muttered in response. She was still trying to wrap her own mind around the curse being real, not to mention all the familial implications - but these people in the hospital room, and others like them, would be moving from astonishment at being woken up after a veritable 28 year coma to lynch mob when the full brunt of what the Mayor had done hit home.
"Kid, stay here, I gotta find your mom." Emma gave Henry a quick hug before turning to the Mother Superior. "Can you keep an eye on him, please?" she implored.
The Mother Superior gave a curt nod, her attention divided between Emma and the purple cloud barrelling towards them.
"Emma no, please don't go!" Henry's voice ripped through to her heart.
She bent down, resting her hands on her knees as she looked Henry in the eyes. "Kid, she's your mom and no matter what else she has or hasn't done, she raised you, she took care of you and all hell is going to break loose if I don't do my job as Sheriff," she held a finger up to silence the protest building on Henry's lips, "and as Saviour. Not just the good get saved, Henry, everyone does."
Emma rustled Henry's hair before leaving the hospital, heading straight into the coming fog.
"You've been coming here every week for the past six months." Regina sighed irritably, tapping her foot against the tiled floor. "The ankle bracelet is still on, I'm not going anywhere."
Emma looked down to the Mayor's ankle, unsurprised to see the house arrest monitor still attached. It had been just over six months and most had forgiven, if not forgotten, what Regina had done to them. Some, however, had found Storybrooke less a curse and more a new beginning; those had been the ones most forgiving.
With the curse broken some had chosen to leave Storybrooke - Nova and Grumpy being the first to leave to explore this brave new world opened up to them; the constraints of being a dwarf and a fairy long forgotten in a past that would never swallow them whole. Others had chosen to stay. Emma had stayed and thus so had Snow White and James.
"You look well, Madam Mayor," Emma had responded.
Regina snorted in derision. "I haven't been Mayor for some time now, Miss Swan. Surely that hasn't escaped your notice."
Emma shuffled her feet and sighed internally. Over six months had gone by since she saved Regina from a mob ready to separate her head from her body; six months since Emma had convinced the town that home arrest was a viable solution as no court in the country would lock Regina away for creating a curse that brought fairy tale characters to Earth. Like clockwork Emma arrived every Monday to check on Regina, and just as regularly Regina would find a way to antagonize her.
"I'll see you next week, Madam Mayor," Emma replied, ignoring the glare she was receiving.
As always, the only response she got was the sound of the heavy wooden door closing behind her as she left.
Emma walked slowly up the pathway to the Mayor's house, noting a handful of parcels sitting just outside the door. She was only mildly surprised that the door opened before she raised her hand to knock.
"Miss Swan," came the measured tone.
"It's Monday," Emma shrugged casually.
"Of course, and here you are," Regina muttered. "Well, if you're going to ruin my day with your insufferable presence, at least be useful and help me bring the groceries inside."
"Home delivery now, Regina?" Emma queried.
"It's always been home delivery, Miss Swan, now it just happens to be Monday. How do you expect me to shop with my accessory? Do you suppose Henry has been doing it all himself?" Regina didn't wait for a reply as she took two parcels in to the kitchen.
Emma grabbed the remaining few parcels, observing the fact Regina had left the heaviest bags for her to carry. Typical, Emma thought. Kicking the door closed behind her she followed Regina in to the kitchen.
"So how are you today, Madam Mayor?" Emma asked as she pulled up a stool at the kitchen counter, watching Regina pack the food away - all undoubtedly having its own place in the pantry. She glanced around the immaculately clean kitchen and dining area, not doubting for a second that it was like this when Regina was still working full time as Mayor and that this level of cleanliness wasn't just due to the fact she was stuck at home under house arrest.
"I'm fine, Miss Swan," Regina said as she finished packing away the last of the groceries, "now, if that will be all?" The rest of the statement was left unfinished as she turned to face Emma, but the implicit tone of it was most assuredly there.
Emma looked at her watch, having nowhere in particular to be at 10:30am. "I guess I should be off, work to do and all that," she said, sliding off the bar stool. The appointed visitation from the local sheriff's department as part of the house arrest deal was a responsibility Emma took on solely by herself. It had been almost a year and it wasn't getting any easier.
"Be sure to close the door on your way out."
"I'll see you next week, Regina," came Emma's only reply. She could almost hear the irritated sigh from the front door as she closed it quietly behind her.
"Come in." Emma heard from beyond the door, only moments after she finished knocking. She opened the heavy wooden door, letting herself in, finding Regina seated at the kitchen table staring at a magazine.
"How are you today, Regina?" Emma asked.
"Peachy with a side of keen," came the sarcastic reply.
Emma looked at the former Mayor, noting she looked a little tired, a little drawn. "How's Henry?" she enquired, hoping to start a bit more dialogue with this woman after 17 months of weekly house visits.
"You should know, Miss Swan, you walk him to the end of my street after school every day," Regina retorted, her voice holding less ice and venom than it once had, a hint of resignation creeping in.
At Emma's shocked expression the Mayor laughed. "Even here, Miss Swan, I am not without my resources." Regina closed the magazine, pushing it away from her, interlacing her fingers together as she leaned forward on the table. "Why do you come here every week, Miss Swan?"
"It's part of your house arrest agreement, Regina, you know that."
"Yes, but why you? Your deputy could do it."
"Because it's my responsibility," Emma replied. Because I want to was a thought she kept at bay.
Regina made a small grunt as she leaned back in her chair, her hands resting in her lap as she eyed the blonde, still standing, in her kitchen. "If you're insisting on remaining in my house, Miss Swan, be a dear and bring me a coffee. The pot is fresh."
Emma exhaled with a hint of irritation at being ordered around, but grabbed two clean cups from the drying rack and poured two coffees, both black. She was damned if she wasn't going to elicit more than five minutes of conversation from this woman.
Ten minutes later she found herself at the front door, only a fraction of stilted conversation centred upon Henry as they had sipped at their coffee.
"I'll see you next Monday," she had called out before leaving once again.
By the third round of knocking at the door, Emma became worried. Tentatively she tried the door handle and was both concerned and relieved to find it unlocked. Regina would never leave her house open to intruders, but she was thankful she didn't have to break a door down to find out what was going on inside.
She drew her gun as she quietly pushed the door open, inspecting the house room by room. It wasn't until she had looked through every room and not found hide nor hair of Regina that she checked the back yard.
It was through the back window that Emma saw Regina sitting on a bench underneath her apple tree, writing in what appeared to be a small, leather bound book. Emma took a moment to breathe in the sight of the brunette; a moment when there were no tension lines upon her face, no walls to guard her; a moment of pure honesty.
She padded back in to the kitchen and set the pot for two more fresh cups of coffee, all the while watching Regina write in her book; the dappled sunlight playing against her pale features through the branches of the apple tree.
Regina looked up at the sound of the door closing; put her book away at the sight of the blonde walking towards her; inhaled lightly at the smell of coffee wafting its way upon the breeze.
Emma held out a cup of coffee. "Thought you might want one," she said by way of explanation.
Regina took it without comment, wrapping her hands around the too hot mug, her hands protesting. She sighed deeply.
"Your front door was unlocked," Emma began as she sat down on the bench beside the brunette, "I was worried."
"It's Monday," Regina replied, as if that was all the answer that was needed.
They sat together under the apple tree, the light and shadow dancing over their skin and clothes as the soft breeze moved the branches. They sat until the coffee cooled in their hands, until their palette would not burn as they swallowed the bitter brew; sat until neither had more silence left within.
"I'll see you next week," Emma said as she gathered the cups to take back inside before leaving. Sometimes sitting without conversation was enough.
Emma opened the door to the house, picking up a couple of the grocery bags as she went inside. She put them on the kitchen counter before returning to grab the last few bags, kicking the door closed behind her.
"Good morning, Regina," she called out into the house as she opened the pantry door. She was sure each item would have its own home, but she had no idea where. Haphazardly she placed the food away, happy as long as it was on a shelf and not the floor. If Regina didn't like it, she could always fix it again later.
She put the coffee on and washed up the solitary bowl in the sink that she surmised was a cereal bowl leftover from Henry that morning.
With two cups of coffee in hand she sought Regina out. Not seeing her in the back yard under the apple tree she was unsurprised to find her at her second most frequented spot in the study. She placed a cup down on the table and took another seat in the room; ignoring the irritated glare from Regina; ignoring the exaggerated movements of the cup being moved on to a coaster. They'd been playing this same game for weeks now, a simple coffee on a glass table top, and she'd be damned if she would crack first.
It wasn't until she was seated that she finally took a good look at Regina. Her usually vibrant colour was tinged with grey, her eyes sported dark, tired circles and her hair hung loosely down around her face.
"My god, Regina, are you alright? Do you need a doctor? I can call Dr Whale," Emma began as she sprang up to move towards the brunette before her.
Regina held up her right hand, stopping Emma. "I'm fine, it's just a stomach virus. I've been up all night. With some rest and fluids I'm sure I'll be doing much better by tomorrow."
"Are you sure? I can take you to the hospital," Emma continued.
"I said I'm fine, Miss Swan." Regina's voice held a note of finality. A few moments passed before she let out a long sigh and sunk back in to her chair. "However, if you could take Henry for the night it would be greatly appreciated. I don't want him becoming ill if this is contagious."
"Of course, that's not a problem at all. Whatever you need, just let me know and I'll be there for you."
Regina laughed softly as she ran her fingers through her hair. "I never knew you to be agreeable about anything," she said, a small smile playing at the corners of her mouth, threatening to break free.
"Sometimes I can be surprising," Emma rejoined.
"Indeed," came the only reply.
The two women stared at each other for a few beats before Emma finally allowed herself to relax.
"Are you sure you don't want me to take you to the hospital?" She had to try, at least one more time.
"Miss Swan!" Regina started in an exasperated tone, "either sit down and drink your coffee or do me the courtesy of leaving the same way you came in. I do not need you mothering me like I am some pitiful infant."
"Ok, ok. Keep your panties on," Emma said as she exhaled softly; sitting back down on the chair, coffee cup in hand, sipping at the hot, dark liquid.
They drank in silence, Regina regaining some of her colour to Emma's satisfaction. The only sound in the room was the occasional scribble of pen to paper as Regina continued to write. To Emma's surprise, curiosity had not got the better of her and she had never asked what all the writing was about.
As the hour mark approached Emma rose to take the cups back to the kitchen and wash them.
"Thank you, Miss Swan," Regina had said, unexpectedly.
Emma was slightly taken aback. "For what?" she'd queried. Gratitude from Regina was like finding a hen with teeth.
A range of emotions played out across the brunette's face as she pondered the question. After a few brief moments she finally settled on one word as her answer. "Coffee."
Emma shook her head and grinned, "I'll see you next Monday, Regina."
As Emma pulled up at the house she noticed a black Mercedes leaving the Mayoral mansion. She shrugged the thought off as she made her way to the house, making her own way inside and setting the coffee for two cups. A quick look out the window revealed no Regina, so once the coffee was made she set out towards the study.
Emma found herself slightly baffled by the lack of Regina in the study as well; a cursory look in the downstairs rooms revealed no one.
"Regina?" she called out and cocked her head to the side, waiting for a reply. If one had been forthcoming, she hadn't heard it. Emma's brow furrowed briefly and she made her way upstairs, coffee cup in each hand, telling herself not to spill any on the carpet. There were valid reasons Regina never let food or drink go upstairs - this carpet was one of them.
The second room Emma checked in revealed Regina laying down on the far side of her bed, propped up only slightly by an extra pillow.
Emma rushed over to her, putting both cups down on the bedside table - no coasters, but she knew the game was over now.
"Regina? Hey, Regina what's wrong?" She put her hand out to touch the forehead of the older woman, noting her skin felt slightly clammy to the touch.
"Stop touching me, Miss Swan," Regina answered, half-heartedly trying to bat Emma's hand away from her face. "What are you doing here?"
Emma knelt down on the floor next to the side of the bed, a quizzical look upon her face. "It's Monday," she replied, as if that was all the answer that was needed.
Regina rolled her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose with her right hand. "I'm well aware of the day, Miss Swan, but I called your office and told them another was coming to check on me today and that your presence was not required."
"Regina, let me call a doctor - you look terrible." Emma rose and pulled her phone from her pocket.
Regina waved her hand. "It's not necessary. Dr Whale was just here - you likely passed him on his way out." Regina looked up at Emma and sighed. "Stop looking at me like that. It's just a stomach bug. Look," Regina pointed to her nightstand, "medication to make it all better. Stop hovering."
"Is there anything I can do?" Emma asked, her voice full of sincerity.
Regina closed her eyes, biting softly on her lower lip as she contemplated the question. "You could stop by with dinner tonight. Henry would enjoy the company and I'm not sure if I'll be up for cooking."
Emma looked down at Regina, her closed eyes and unguarded features. Lightly she touched the older woman's shoulder, watching as brown eyes opened and locked on to her own.
"Of course," Emma replied, "I'll be here at six."
Regina nodded and closed her eyes once more as Emma sat with her cup of coffee on the foot of the bed. Nothing but the quiet sound of breathing could be heard as she sat with her hands wrapped around the cup, the warmth seeping in through her skin, trying to dispel the icy cold tendril that was wrapping its way around her spine.
As the coffee in the cup cooled beyond drinking she finally stood up, her eyes wandering over the now sleeping form of Regina as she took the second cup of neglected coffee in her hand. Her curiosity that she had tampered down so often before flared and she walked to the nightstand, to the medication and was baffled by the names on the labels she saw.
Sighing softly she walked out of Regina's room, quietly closing the door behind her.
Lifting the 'Welcome' mat for the spare key, Emma let herself in to the house. Without pause she headed for the stairs, headed for Regina's room. There was no point checking the apple tree with its dappling light, no point checking the lounge room where Regina would curl up and read, no point checking the study that had a lingering smell of apples and something intrinsically Regina.
As she pushed the door open and entered the room she was taken aback by the brunette sitting at her dresser, writing in her leather-bound book. The scene looked so normal that maybe she had been wrong, maybe it had been a dream, so many maybes and so little hope.
Emma watched as Regina lifted her head, catching her eye in the mirror before them. The familiar sparkle the past two years had shown her, the imperceptible tilt of the older woman's head before just the slightest ghost of a smile graced her features.
"Miss Swan," Regina began, "what is the meaning of this? Monday morning and you're here without my coffee?" The quip was light hearted and Emma fought the pinpricks of pain that threatened at her eyes; fought the tremble of her lower lip; desperately bargained with her voice to remain steady. If she could get through this hour maybe she wouldn't shatter in to a million glass pieces on this immaculately carpeted floor.
"When were you going to tell me?" she asked, her fist balling at her side, her nails digging half moon shapes in to her palm.
Regina sighed as she closed the book before her, turning to face Emma directly.
"I hadn't planned on it."
And to Emma it felt as if all the air had been sucked from the room; as if the puppeteer holding her had cut the strings, herself a marionette in a play not of her own design, certainly not of her own choosing. She crumpled to the floor and fought the pinpricks behind her eyes, tried not to gulp down the last vestiges of air that she was sure was in the room, tried not to believe the tacit acknowledgement she had just received.
She wasn't sure how she got off the floor, how she came to be laying on the bed, held tightly in the arms of Regina. If she closed her eyes she could pretend the soft stroking of her hair was done as a lover's touch and not out of soothing; could pretend the arms that held her now would hold her until they were both old and grey. She held her eyes closed tightly as if that would ward off all the evils of the world; if she couldn't see it, it wasn't real and it wouldn't happen.
"Miss Swan," she heard, shattering through her darkness. "Miss Swan, please."
Emma opened her eyes, saw the light streaming in through the window and wondered why it wasn't raining.
She sat up and left the comfort, unaware how long she had stayed in her safe haven, knowing only that it wasn't long enough. She bargained again with the pinpricks, with her lower lip and with her voice.
"Does Henry..." she let the question hang in the air between them.
Regina shook her head. "No, and I would like to keep it that way."
"Is there anything we can do?" Emma asked, cursing herself for her voice breaking the bargain.
"No." The reply was so simple. Just one little word, just one little syllable.
"But you have magic?" In stories, magic was always powerful, magic could always win.
"It doesn't work like that." The voice was full of sympathy, full of resignation.
Emma bit her lower lip, balled her fist so tightly she was sure it would bleed her crimson life against the pastel sheets.
Her voice barely registered, barely hinted at sound as she asked, "How long?"
"Miss Swan," Regina's voice was low, soothing.
"How long?" Emma asked again, her body aching.
"Long enough," came the only reply.
Emma let herself in to the house with her key and went through to the kitchen, putting away the groceries she'd picked up from the supermarket on her way. When she finished with that task she heated up some chicken soup and poured a glass of apple juice. With practiced ease she opened up various medication bottles, taking tablets from here and there, placing them on a small dish upon the tray that already contained the soup and drink.
She ascended the stairs and knocked softly before entering Regina's room.
"Today's your lucky day, Regina - apple juice and chicken soup," Emma grinned at the woman laying on the bed, propped up by a few pillows.
"Oh, what joy," Regina replied sarcastically as she shifted herself a little higher on the mattress.
Emma placed the tray over Regina's legs and sat down on the other side of her. She knew Regina struggled to keep down a lot of the food, knew that the apple juice soothed her, knew that Monday was two reds, a blue and a white pill.
Emma watched as Regina ate what she could, talking light heartedly about the town and its people. She'd wanted to know what was going on in the world out there and Emma was happy to oblige.
When Regina had finished her meal, Emma moved the tray to the nightstand and turned back, grinning.
"What is it, Miss Swan? You look like the cat who ate the bird."
Emma laughed. "Don't you know what day it is?"
Emma laughed again, this time rewarded with the faintest trace of a smile from the woman on the bed.
"It's the day you lose your tracer. No more stylish accessories for you, Madam Mayor."
"How many times do I have to tell you I'm no longer Mayor here, Miss Swan?" Regina asked tiredly.
"About as many as I tell you I have a first name, which you can start calling me any time you like," the blonde smiled. She unhooked the ankle bracelet from around Regina's ankle and held it up proudly. "Now, what would you like to do today?"
Regina looked out the window to the blue sky. "I think I'd like to sit under the apple tree," she answered somewhat wistfully.
And so Emma helped Regina out of bed, felt the familiar weight against her as they made their way slowly down the stairs and out in to the back yard. The sunlight warm upon their bodies as the pair, in unison, turned their faces towards the sky and drank in the day.
Time passed as they sat in the dappled light under the beautiful apple tree. Emma tried not to think about the branch that no longer grew, that her fit of anger had seen reason to cut from the rest of this magnificent tree. She let herself get lost in her own thoughts, checkered light and shadow playing out their eternal game across their bodies as the branches moved softly above them.
"I need you to take Henry."
The request had been so quiet and Emma had been so lost in her own reverie she was almost certain it had never been said, never been expressed into the vast world around them. She wished that maybe she hadn't heard the utterance, hadn't pieced together its significance, hadn't understood all that was being given up in that one, simple sentence.
"Regina," she had started to reply - but was cut off almost instantly.
"Miss Swan, I need this. I can't care for him like I should; some days I can't get out of bed and that is no way for my son to see me," Regina's voice fell an octave, gave way to resignation and defeat. "Please Miss Swan, don't make me beg."
Emma could only nod, knew bargains struck with her voice would only be broken; would open a dam she could not contain and the flood it held back might be too much force for this woman beside her. Instead she took the older woman's hand, held it tightly in a promise and looked towards the sky.
Emma pushed the door to the bedroom open, took in the sight of the brunette laying on the bed before her; another life, another time, this might have been different. She coughed lightly to draw the attention of the older woman, was rewarded by sparkling brown eyes turning towards her and a smile upon her lips.
"I wasn't expecting you," Regina had said, her voice a husk of what it used to be.
Regina had nodded and leaned her head back against the pillow. It was Monday.
"Henry would like to come and see you. It's been a week," Emma started as she made her way over to the bed, sitting down beside this beautifully strong woman, "he misses you."
"How is he?"
"Confused, mostly. He loves you, Regina, he wants to be with you."
"Let me bring him around tonight, we can have dinner."
Regina nodded and brought her attention to the window, looking out into nowhere in particular. She didn't trust her voice to hold steady if she answered.
Emma unlocked the front door and let herself and Henry inside.
"Go set the table, kid," she said, motioning towards the kitchen, "and take this with you," she added, handing Henry the take-out bag. She watched for a few moments as Henry disappeared in to the kitchen before heading up the stairs.
To her surprise, Regina was just coming out of the bedroom door as Emma's foot landed on the top step. She was quick to move to wrap an arm around the brunette's waist but was stopped almost immediately.
"No, Miss Swan," Regina began, her voice sotto voce, "I will walk to my son on my own."
Emma nodded and stepped back, close enough should anything happen, far enough for the illusion of space.
Henry's broad smile as he ran to his mom, wrapping his arms around her painfully thin waist, almost threatened pinpricks behind Emma's eyes. A glance to the brunette led her to believe the story was quite similar for her as well. She left the mother and son and moved to the kitchen to start dishing out dinner, catching the briefest movement as Regina kissed Henry's cheeks and the top of his head as he held her tightly in his arms.
Minutes passed before she heard the pair enter the dining room, Henry's dinner already on a plate.
"Really, Miss Swan? Burger and fries? What terrible habits are you teaching my son?" The words held a hint of teasing and the familiar sparkle was in Regina's eyes.
"It was a burger or nothing - he can be really stubborn, Madam Mayor," Emma said, rolling her eyes. "Can't imagine where he gets that from."
Emma shook her head, a slow smile crossing her face as a single word popped in to her mind: family.
"What can I get you tonight, Regina?"
"If there's any more of that chicken soup it would go down nicely."
Emma busied herself in the kitchen heating up enough soup for two as she heard Henry regaling his mom with tales of his week. It made her heart leap when she heard the soft laughter coming from Regina in response to some story or other from Henry and it caused that one word to float through her mind once more.
Together the three ate their meals, Henry the centre of attention as he recalled story after story of his past week, his mother hanging on to every word. Emma sat back and watched them, almost unable to believe how close the pair had become over the past years; happy that, if nothing else, this post-curse world had brought these two so close together.
The hours joined together as mother and son chatted, Emma interrupting only briefly as she placed a bowl of ice-cream down before Henry under the watchful eye of Regina. But as the time passed Emma noticed how tired the older woman was getting, how much coming down to dinner had really taken out of her and in the next break in conversation she suggested she take Regina up to bed whilst Henry start the dishes.
"Thank you, Miss Swan," Regina had said as Emma helped her in to bed.
Emma shrugged slightly, unused to gratitude. "You'd have done the same for me," she replied, and was certain her statement hit the mark.
Emma sank down on the edge of the bed, drawing lazy patterns over the denim of her jeans, the distant clang of plates being washed haphazardly by a teenager drifting up the stairs.
"I miss our coffees," Emma stated, as much to herself as to the woman on the bed.
It was the brief flicker of movement Emma caught in her peripheral vision, the motion of Regina's hand coming to her own face to wipe away a stray tear she thought Emma hadn't seen, that allowed every bargain Emma ever made with herself to break. Salt water splashed against the back of her hand as her chin trembled, silent tears baptizing her in grief.
The pair leaned in to each other, sought comfort in each other's embrace and allowed the tears to wash away their pain.
Stolen moments turned in to seconds which followed in to minutes before they parted. Regina squeezed Emma's hand in her own and gave a sorrowful smile that told everything and hid nothing.
"Please, Miss Swan, can you send my son up? I think it's time we talked."
Emma nodded as she got up to leave the room.
"I'll see you next Monday."
"Could we make it tomorrow? If your schedule isn't too busy - I have some things to give you, it shouldn't take long. Before work is fine."
"Of course, Madam Mayor," Emma answered, leaving the door slightly ajar for Henry's inevitable entrance.
And Emma took a seat on the bottom step of the staircase as Henry made his way past her, up to his mother; her knees pulled up as she rested her arms over her legs. It wasn't long before she heard the pained howl come from upstairs, of a life torn apart; she sunk her head against her arms and shook as a fresh wave of tears spilled out. Breaking the curse should not have broken her soul, should not have broken Henry's.
Emma pulled up at the Mayoral mansion. The day was overcast and the air held a slight chill, the promise of an early winter. Sighing softly she locked her car and made her way up the pathway to the front door, unlocking it and swinging it open; heavy wood against the hinges.
It was Tuesday.
She kicked her shoes off and took the steps two at a time. It felt wrong. Maybe it was because it was so early, maybe because she was here only hours before. Maybe.
It was Tuesday.
She pushed open the door to Regina's room, preparing herself for the worst. But brunette hair lifted as a head moved to look in her direction.
"Of course," she sighed in relief.
"But it's not Monday."
Regina motioned to the dresser and Emma moved towards it.
"Under the top drawer," Regina whispered, her voice struggling to make the right sounds, "there's a button to unlock it."
Emma reached under the dresser and found the button. A click sounded as she pressed it and the top drawer of the dresser slid open.
Inside was a leather bound book.
Emma looked quizzically back towards Regina, the unspoken question written plainly across her face.
"Take it all, Miss Swan."
Tentatively Emma retrieved the book, and only then noticed a stack of papers beneath it. She lifted those, too, from their resting place in the oak wood drawer.
Once more she sought permission from the older woman on the bed, a nod in her direction the only response she received.
The first papers she opened were bank details for a college fund set up for Henry. They appeared to be set up very thoroughly and for the one and only expressed purpose of college tuition.
The second set of papers were title deeds to the mansion. Unsurprisingly they named it as in trust for Henry on his 18th birthday and property of his guardian until such times as he came of age.
Shifting her hand to open the last set of papers she recognized them almost immediately as custodial papers, naming herself as Henry's legal guardian. What was not lost on Emma was the date - signed over a year prior.
She turned and looked back at Regina, the older woman's eyes pricked with tears.
"Look after him, Miss Swan."
"Gods, Regina," Emma sighed softly as her eyes glanced back over the custodial papers before her, "you didn't have to do this."
Her hand strayed to the leather bound book, it's soft cover enticing.
Opening it she read the first page:
To my darling son, Henry. I will always love you.
Short and to the point. That was Regina. Her curiosity finally got the better of her as she flicked through to the next page, the title page of the book Regina had so obviously been writing.
Once Upon A Time: A True Tale of Events
She flipped through the book, Regina's cursive handwriting on every page. Emma felt somewhat voyeuristic in doing so, this clearly was an autobiography, a history of Fairy Tale Land and Regina's place within it.
As she was about to put the book down and turn back to the former Mayor, a neatly folded piece of paper fell from between the last few pages of the book. Leaning down, she picked it off the floor. There was nothing remarkable about the piece of paper - in fact it looked like it had been torn from one of Henry's school notebooks.
Curiously she opened it, tears springing to her eyes as her hand moved to cover her mouth; her heart ached and her lips trembled. Why now? She re-read the first line:
To my dearest Emma
And there was no mistaking the cursive script, matching the writing within the leather book.
I love you.
She couldn't read past that, her eyes a blur of water and her heart shifted from sorrow to joy. All she could do was talk and for once she was happy to break all the deals with her voice.
"Gods Regina, I love you too," she exhaled; the words finding happiness at finally being set free from her heart.
She turned her eyes back from the letter to Regina.
Something was wrong.
It was Tuesday.
Time seemed to almost stop as Emma jumped up from the chair at the dresser, the sound of the leather book hitting the carpet nothing more than a distant thud in her mind. She felt as if she were moving through molasses, her limbs refusing to cooperate with her, her mind a mess as she took in the only two coherent thoughts in her head: the sparkle was gone and it was Tuesday.
She grabbed hold of Regina's shoulders, planted every magical curse breaking kiss she could upon her face and lips; howled in pain and anguish, gasping for air as she felt herself shatter like glass in to millions of pieces. Such fragile glass, so easily broken. She nursed Regina's head against as she wept unashamedly for a life that should not be taken; sobbed until the wracking pains in her body threatened to overwhelm her. She smoothed the hair back from the older woman's face and she couldn't help but pretend, just for a few moments, that perhaps she was just asleep; could fool herself into the illusion of the lie.
Oh gods! She cried out to any of the higher powers and wept as if by sheer force of will she could bring this woman back.
It wasn't until that afternoon that a very concerned James had come looking for her at the Mayoral mansion. She hadn't realized she'd never moved, hadn't realized she'd never stopped stroking the brunette's hair, hadn't realized the tears had stopped flowing.
"Oh Emma," James said, his voice breaking as he reached for his daughter.
"I never knew," Emma murmured, almost too softly to be heard.
"Come on Emma, let's call an ambulance for her," he spoke soothingly to her.
Emma nodded, kissing Regina's forehead once more, rising shakily to her feet. She couldn't stay here forever, it wasn't right. Regina would want some dignity in this. Just as she stood and made her first steps towards James she felt unconsciousness take her, blackness closing in around her; her last thought before she hit the beautifully carpeted floor was simply - It's Tuesday.
Emma opened her eyes to a sea of people staring down at her - Dr Whale and Henry were to be expected, although the addition of the Mother Superior and a few nurses was slightly concerning.
She looked around, trying to get a hold of her bearings. She remembered fainting in Regina's room - oh gods, Regina - and figured she was now in the hospital. But, if that was the case, why was she on the floor?
"Henry?" she asked, feeling completely lost.
"Emma! You're awake!" He threw himself down on the floor, hugging her tightly.
"Henry," she said again, pushing the boy back from her a little so she could look him in the eyes. "What the hell just happened?"
Henry blinked a little before answering, looking between Dr Whale and Mother Superior.
"Well, the cloud hit us and you collapsed," he said, as if that was all the explanation that was needed.
Emma shook her head a little, trying to clear her thoughts.
"Yeah, the big purple cloud? You remember, don't you?" Henry looked at her with concern.
"Yeah kid, I remember. The cloud just hit?"
"Emma, you're starting to worry me," Henry said, biting at his lower lip.
"Emma," Dr Whale interjected, "you've had a bit of a fall there and you were out to it for a few brief moments. You might want to take some time to adjust. Do you know what day it is?"
"Tuesday," Emma answered without thinking. She didn't miss the look that passed between the three people currently looking at her. "What?"
"Emma," the Mother Superior began, "it's Monday."
It's Monday, Emma thought. By the gods, it's Monday!
She jumped to her feet, slightly too quickly as the blackness threatened her once again.
"Look after him!" she yelled over her shoulder as she ran out of the hospital.
She pulled the police cruiser up to the house and ran to the front door, knocking wildly. On the third round of knocking with still no answer she finally lifted up the 'Welcome' mat and used the spare key, unlocking the house and running inside.
She ran up the stairs, not taking the time to remove her boots as she knew Regina would have wanted, taking the steps two at a time. Pushing open the first door she saw Regina sitting on Henry's bed, holding his pillow close to her, her body shaking with repressed tears.
"Regina," she breathed out, not caring to understand why she was so certain that only this morning this woman had been laying dead in her arms. Not caring, as long as this woman before her was alive; and she knew now, she knew she could save her and not just the 'good' people of this town.
"What the hell are you doing here, Miss Swan?" Regina rounded on Emma, dropping the pillow back to the bed.
"I'm here to save you," came the even reply. And she knew she would, knew they would catch it early enough, knew there was a chance.
"What makes you think I need saving? Especially from the likes of you?" Regina hissed, venom and ice pouring from her voice.
The next words that left Emma's mouth showed the most fleeting of reactions across Regina's face, a small glimpse of understanding, an almost imperceptible tilt of her head and the barest ghost of a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. She replied as if it was the only answer that was needed: