A/N: This was just a weird little idea I had when I woke up the other day. I expected it to be super short, like, barely even a drabble. Then, it turned into this!
Set post 2.01 'Broken', and told from Snow's POV, but very definitely a Swan Queen story!
Unbeta-ed, so all errors are my own. If you review, you are automatically my best friend forever!
We'd parted ways with Aurora and Mulan several weeks ago. They'd helped us as far as they could, but we were on separate paths in the end. Mine and Emma's path was one that, hopefully, ended back in Storybrooke with our loved ones. Our new friends had little interest in joining us in this land we had been banished to; had I not spent the last twenty-eight years there myself, Emma's description might have frightened me off as well.
The fact also remained, despite all that had happened, that this was home. I understood that. Had it not been for my husband and grandson – how strange to think, I have a grandson! – I might have been less than eager to leave, myself.
Emma, it seemed, was determined we wouldn't spend a moment longer in this realm than necessary. This wasn't home to her, I could accept that, but the fact that she saw it as nothing more than an obstacle saddened me.
"This is where you were born, you know," I tried making conversation, sitting around our fire as the light began to fade. "Not here, precisely – our castle was many miles away. But this is our world."
"I know." Emma nodded solemnly. It was about as conversational as she'd been since the incident with the hat, since we'd been stuck here.
"You always said you wanted to know who you were, where you came from," I started again, fed up with the constant moping. "Well, Emma, this is it. I thought perhaps you would at least be a little interested, but it's like you couldn't care less."
"No, no." She at least attempted to look apologetic then. "It's not that. I just, I miss Henry and... I just miss my kid, that's all."
That wasn't all, I knew. I may have missed out on raising my little girl, but I was still her mother, and a mother senses these things. Of course I believed she missed Henry; being separated from your child was something I could empathize with all too well. There was something more, though. Something – or perhaps someone? – else that she yearned for. There was a time when she might have told me what that was, when we were simply friends and roommates. I was her mother now though, and she was still so angry with me.
She blamed me for us not being together; I blamed Regina. It was Regina's fault I hadn't raised my child. It was Regina's fault that my child was now separated from her own. Though, I had a feeling my child somehow blamed me for our current situation as well. Perhaps my husband had been right. Perhaps it would have been easier to just let the wraith take Regina, to let her die. If not for my daughter's intervention on the Evil Queen's behalf, I'm not certain I would have managed to take the high road. Then again, we wouldn't be in this mess if we hadn't.
"Do you regret saving her?" I asked, very cautiously.
Emma visibly tensed.
"No," she replied tersely, eyes trained on her own knees before her.
"Why did you do it?" I pushed.
"Just," she shrugged noncommittally, "because."
"I was there, so let's cut the crap." My tone was firm, not quite scolding, but enough to get her to look up at me with surprise. "I know you made a promise to Henry to protect her. But, Emma, you risked your life to save hers! Do you really think that's what Henry would want? For you to protect that woman at the cost of losing you? Don't get me wrong, what you did was brave, and certainly honorable. But I – we almost lost you. Again. Tell me you have a better reason than 'just because'."
Emma just stared, her expression switching from apologetic to angry, then back again. Her mouth opened and closed several times, wordlessly, before she abruptly sprung to her feet.
"I don't want to talk about this," she hissed, turning her back to me as she rifled pointlessly with the kindling for the fire.
I opened my mouth to retaliate, never getting the chance as we were startled by a scream – more of a yelp, really – followed by the sound of crackling branches and ending with a thump. I jumped to my feet, chasing after Emma, who was already rushing towards the ruckus. A series of painful groans could be heard not far off. The voice sounded familiar, but I told myself it couldn't be...
"Regina!" I heard Emma's shrill cry, confirming my fears; multiplying them as I tried to ignore the terror in my daughter's voice, and the way it twisted my gut.
She wasn't afraid of Regina – she was afraid for her.
Harder still to ignore was the way Emma practically tripped over herself in her mad dash to the crumpled form, throwing her self down at Regina's side. Any chance I had of lying to myself died as I watched my baby girl scoop the half conscious body of my nemesis into her arms, tears rolling down her pale cheeks.
Emma's face bore a mixture of sadness and fear, but there was something else in her expression now, a tentative relief in her eyes as her fingers touched Regina's cheek, like she'd been waiting just for this. My heart pounded in my ears. Please, no. Please, anything but this.
For a moment, I didn't notice that the tender caress had turned to light slaps against Regina's face. Confused, I strained to hear the words spilling from my daughter's lips as I crept hesitantly forward.
"Wake up! Come on, Regina, please wake up!" Emma was chanting between choked sobs. She gasped, and I looked down to see brown eyes slowly fluttering open. I looked back up to see Emma grinning widely, staring into those eyes like she'd forgotten my presence completely. She let out a shuddering breath, a ragged, "Hey," falling from her lips.
Regina smiled back up, weakly, though it was a genuine smile. Her eyes fell shut again, as if that smile had consumed the last of her strength.
"I found you," she whispered, her energy officially depleted as she passed out completely.
I wanted to slap her, unconscious or not. Hearing those words from her mouth was like a slap in the face to me, so why shouldn't I? I couldn't be expected to believe she loved my daughter the way I loved my husband, or the way he loved me. It was inconceivable. It was preposterous. She had no right to say those words, not in this way.
This time unknowingly, Emma came to Regina's rescue once again, snapping me out of my thoughts as she asked me, "Will you help me get her back to our camp?" The way my blood was boiling, I could have left her majesty there to rot; but Emma was looking up at me, with those big, round eyes that always looked just a little bit sad anyway, heartbreakingly so when they were pleading. She looked so hopeful, and I couldn't take that away from her, not after these last couple months of seeing nothing but anger and sadness.
It was a bit of a struggle, Regina being completely dead weight, but we managed to to move her without causing any further harm. Emma adjusted her bed roll to widen it, dashing my hopes that we might just stash Regina off to the side until she woke. Nope, my daughter clearly intended to remain at her side throughout the night. I helped ease the unconscious woman to the ground, and Emma immediately began tending to her wounds, which were really just a few scrapes and scratches.
I knew I should bite my tongue, I probably didn't want the answer anyway, but watching my daughter treat Regina's body with not just respect, but a sort of reverence, words began trying to tumble out.
"Emma, are you... I mean, do you have..." I made some sort of abstract hand gesture in the brunette woman's direction, hoping it might adequately complete my thought. I presumed it had been sufficient when Emma paused her ministrations.
She simply stared at Regina for a long moment, her gaze never wavering as she finally replied, "I don't want to talk about it." She wasn't angry or defiant this time. It was a plea, and I nodded my consent that I would let it go, for now. I had really already gotten my answer anyway.
My heart ached as I made my way to my own bed roll on the opposite side of the fire. Emma sat just off the edge of her blankets, but remained as near Regina's side as her position allowed. I knew the physical distance was for my benefit alone. I was tempted to tell her not to bother; I'd seen enough already. Instead I closed my eyes and willed sleep to come, hoping perhaps tomorrow this all might make some sense – or, better yet, have been nothing more than a bad dream.
For long minutes I lay there, sleep refusing to take me. Sometime later, I heard the sound of someone shuffling my way, opening my eyes just enough to recognize my daughter's form. She studied me a moment, I assumed trying to determine my state of wakefulness. Not really in the mood to talk now, and doubting she hoped to find me alert anyway, I let my eyes fall shut again and feigned sleep. Apparently satisfied by this – we'd have to work on her observation skills – Emma returned to her place by Regina.
Cracking my eyes open just a sliver once again, I watched her lay down on the vacant portion of the bed roll, her body pressed against that of the unconscious woman who occupied the other half. Head propped up by her elbow, there was worry in her expression, but also the first signs of happiness I'd seen in along while. Her free hand lifted to gently smooth back unruly brown locks, and I squeezed my eyes shut again, unwilling to accept what I was seeing. That my child was in love with my enemy.
"Emma?" My eyes flew open again at the hoarse sound of Regina's voice, calling my child by her first name, no less.
"Shhh," Emma placed a finger gently over the woman's lips, grinning so hard her cheeks might have cracked. "It's me," she whispered, "But keep your voice down, my mother is sleeping just over there."
"I thought perhaps I'd been delirious," Regina rasped in a hushed tone. "I really did find you."
That's when I noticed Emma was crying again, but then she was laughing through the tears and nodding her head. "You found me."
I hadn't even time for disdain at that phrase passing between them before Emma was leaning down, pressing her lips to Regina's. I watched on in horror as Regina kissed her back, willing myself to turn away, and somehow unable to do so. The kiss was both tentative and urgent, in a way that only a first kiss can be, and I took some comfort in knowing this hadn't been going on for longer, right under my nose. I caught sight of tongues sneaking past lips, and finally managed to rip my gaze away from what I could only consider to be a train wreck.
I closed my eyes, and that's when I felt it. That same magic that had brought me back to life, the same magic that had restored our memories. That pulse of pure love that radiated out across the land, stronger than any curse or any spell. True Love's kiss cannot be feigned, and in that moment I knew that my daughter was in love with Regina, and Regina loved her back, completely – whether or not they even knew it yet themselves.
When I opened my eyes I was shocked to find myself not laying on the earth by a fire, but on the cold floor of Storybrooke's town hall. Emma and Regina jumped apart not a moment later as a tiny voice rang out through the room. "She did it, Grandpa! It worked!"
A blur of Henry whizzed passed from somewhere behind me, launching himself at both of his mothers at once. One little arm wrapped around each woman's neck, thwarting their attempts to discreetly place some distance between themselves. At the same time, strong arms helped lift me to my feet, and I turned to face my husband. He opened his mouth to speak, but I silenced him with a hand to his lips. "Please, don't say it." I ignored his baffled expression and kissed him instead, finding myself wrapped in his embrace once we parted.
From over his shoulder I could see Emma and Regina, still linked together by Henry's arms, stealing uncertain yet playful glances from one another. I couldn't help thinking how much they looked like a family.
"Wait a minute," Henry pulled back, but didn't quite let go. "Were you guys kissing?"
Emma looked dumbstruck, and her father whirled around in shock, though I silenced him again. Regina was on the ball as ever.
"How would you feel about that, Henry?" she asked.
"I mean, it's kind of gross," he said, scrunching his nose in classic kid fashion. "But, I guess kind of awesome, too."
"Can we talk about this later?" Emma whined, rubbing her head. "After a shower? And a nap. And a drink."
Regina reached out to smooth blonde hair comfortingly, and Emma smiled back in appreciation.
My eyes fell to the woman who had once been my hero, once been my step-mother, once been my predator and once been my prey. She was none of those things anymore. Suddenly, now, the woman I had thought to be my mortal enemy for the rest of my days was, in fact, my grandson's other mother, my daughter's true love. I didn't have to like it, but I would have to learn to accept this new Regina. I would do it for Emma, for my daughter, because I knew this was to be her happy ending.