Cora's head suddenly whipped around, hair on the back of her neck rising up. Something wasn't right. She could feel it, that telltale tingle that something was breaking through her barrier. But that was impossible. There were no weak spots, her magical fortress was solid. There was nothing in this world that could break through her defenses.

And yet, something had. Or someone.

Regina weakly rose, rubbing her wrists, eyeing her mother cautiously. She was distracted by something, and Regina's eyes darted to the doorway, cursing her lack of powers, her weakness. She fought the urge to run, knowing it was a pointless effort, and being so drained she would be lucky to escape a monkey, let alone a powerful witch. She hated the way her mother could just swoop in and render her helpless at the drop of a hat. But she knew, also, that all magic had its limits. Perhaps, she thought, that's why Cora was now glaring out at her barrier, perhaps she was weakening.

Suddenly a figure flew out of the hazy circle and collapsed, coughing and gagging, onto Regina's front lawn. A very blonde, very familiar figure.

Regina gasped and instinctively moved forward towards her, but Cora was too quick and easily slammed her back, vines binding her again. "Did I say you were allowed to move!?" Cora exclaimed angrily, "or have you forgotten everything I've taught you?" Then, just as quickly, she turned back to the figure still curled on the ground and crooked her finger.

Emma felt herself being yanked forward, dizzy and incoherent, she could do nothing to stop it, until she found herself on Regina's front steps. I made it, she thought hazily, before she was yanked up and was looking into the dark eyes of a woman who did look a bit like an older Regina. Not as attractive, she thought, then almost laughing at herself for how ridiculous a thought that was at the present time.

"Who are you?" Cora demanded, pushing her up against the not far from Regina. Emma blinked a few times, her head clearing. Her skin still burned, and when she looked down she saw welts all over her body, but it was not unbearable. She looked to her right and saw Regina bound, eyes wide in shock. "Emma…" Regina breathed quietly. Emma met her eyes and was horrified by what she saw there. She was certain she had never seen what true fear looked like until that moment.

"Emma, hm?" Cora said, not taking her eyes away from her most recent captive. "You must have great power to have made it inside my barrier in one piece." She ran a finger down the blondes check, tracing her jaw, and her eyes snapped back to her, narrowing. She didn't have great power, but she did know she wanted this woman out of her face.

"Yeah, I'm Emma, and would you mind backing the fuck off?"

Cora let out a cruel-sounding laugh. "And feisty as well. A redeemable quality, one my daughter never exhibited quite satisfactorily. But you will find, my dear, that I do mind, and I will do whatever I please." She punctuated this comment by snapping her fingers, and more vines curled themselves around Emma's legs and wrists, holding her upright, arms outstretched. "So how did you break in here, hmm?" Cora continued to run her finger downward, over Emma's chest, a sick, sly grin on her face, pausing over where her heart beat in her chest.

Regina stood paralyzed, watching with increasing dread. Why, why had Emma come here? How did she break through? It was baffling. Perhaps the daughter of true love did have some magic, after all. Regina scowled at that, of course, everyone has magic but her. Typical.

But when she focused on where her mother's hand currently lay, rage began to burn in her belly. She clung to it, gathered it. Regina had always used rage as her greatest strength, and she summoned it now, even through the terror of what her mother would do to her, what she was surely about to do to Emma.

"Mother!" She ground out through clenched teeth. "Stop it! She has no use to you. She has nothing, it was just luck!" She could tell the words were futile. The evidence was against her. There was no such thing as luck where her mother's magic was concerned. Cora ignored her at first, but seemingly as an afterthought flung out her hand, a burning ball of white light hit Regina square in the chest and she dropped to the ground, gasping as her head spun, feeling as though she'd just been run over by a truck.

"Hey!" Emma shouted out, straining in vain against the vines holding her back, watching Regina in horror, her heart aching for her. Suddenly she understood, she completely got why Regina was the way she was. She was desperate to get to her, to get them both away from this madwoman.

Cora raised an eyebrow, her fingertips sinking just below the skin of Emma's chest. "No, Mother, please!" Regina pleaded, struggling to get upright again. She couldn't do this, not again. She couldn't watch her mother rip out the heart of yet another person she cared about.


Regina's own thoughts gave her pause. Since when was Emma someone she cared about? Shaking it off she blamed it on pure emotional exhaustion. Just because she was distressed by her mother's torture of her and other people didn't mean anything. She was just having flashbacks to old memories, that's all.

Cora gave her daughter only the slightest glance. Emma was paralyzed with the horror of having this monsters fingers in her chest, all her bravado slithering away. I'm about to have my heart pulled out, she thought, this is how I'm going to die, going after Regina Mills, of all people.

Cora sunk her fingers in a little further, feeling the blondes heart, but not pulling. Emma gasped at the tightness in her chest. It wasn't exactly painful, not yet, but it was definitely an unnerving feeling. Suddenly Cora burst into a loud cackle and pulled away from Emma, turning back to her daughter.

"Oh Regina, you will just never change will you? I see it all so clearly now."

Regina was silent, staring blankly at her mother, trying to figure out what scheme she was cooking up to lacerate her with now. Emma glanced sideways nervously between Cora and Regina, wondering how the hell they were going to get out of this mess. Maybe she should have listened to Snow.

Cora gripped Regina's chin tightly, inches away from her face. "She's the beloved savior," she hissed, disgusted. "And here she is, one more blubbering idiot, inexplicably chasing after you like a lost puppy. Can you not seduce anyone of better worth? Although I suppose this one is at least royalty," she mused, "The saddest most pathetic sack of royalty I've ever seen, but nonetheless."

Regina and Emma both gaped at her. "Mother, I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Oh, don't you? Remember it's foolish to lie to me, Regina." Cora caressed her chest before fingers slipped inside, a mirror image of what she had just done to Emma. "Do you forget that I can see inside you? Your hearts tell me otherwise.

Suddenly faint noises reminiscent of bombs or missiles reached the women's ears. Cora whipped around once again. "What now!?"

What looked like huge balls of white fire were blasting at the barrier. Cora shot out her hands in magical defense, deflecting them, but the balls kept coming, and Cora's retaliations seemed to be lessening. Regina smirked, watching. Finally, it seemed, the extent of how long Cora had been keeping the barrier and the vines up was beginning to wear at her, as she was breathing a bit more heavily, struggling to keep all her magic in place. Regina could feel the vines around her loosening only ever so slightly, not enough for her to get away, but it was a start.

Then, it happened. Whatever magic was attacking them broke through and a hole in the barrier opened up, clear as day. "No!" Cora shouted, distraught, as a swarm of fairies came flying through it, raining what looked like glittering lightning down on her. The rest of the barrier dropped away as Cora worked rapidly to deflect the spells. "Bugs!" She growled, aiming her own missiles up at them. No way would these little insects even come close to defeating her.

Regina's binds had loosened enough for her to move her arms just a bit, and flung one out towards Emma, an idea thrusting her body into action before she could even fully process it. As her hand grasped Emma's, a loud crack and burst of light swirled around them. They were free.

Emma and Regina's eyes met, Emma grinning brightly. "You did it!" Regina began to shake her head, but Emma's words had caught Cora's attention, and they quickly had to dodge a fireball aimed in their direction. Regina, still clasping Emma's hand, flung out her other arm and shot an even bigger one back at her mother. Emma shuddered, feeling heat and a sensation she couldn't quite name flush through her body, but she couldn't bring herself to drop Regina's hand. Cora growled furiously, forced to duck it.

"This isn't over!" She shrieked, before spinning on her heel and disappearing in a cloud of smoke.

All was silent for a long moment, each woman wondering what came next. "Regina…" Emma started, a thousand thoughts swirling around her brain, finally settling on the easiest, the most basic, "Are you okay?"

Regina let out a breath and a humorless laugh. "No, dear. I certainly am not okay."

Before Emma could respond, she heard Snow crying out her name just before she was pounced on by the woman hugging her tightly.

"Are you insane! You could have been killed! You would have been killed! How did you survive that!? Do not ever do that to me again, do you understand!?"

Emma hugged her back, having been pulled away from Regina. "I'm fine. I don't know."

"You're burned!" Snow exclaimed, looking over her skin. Emma shrugged.

"I'm okay."

"We can get the fairies to heal you, thank god they agreed to come aid us." Snow attempted to gently pull her daughter from the porch, towards the group of conversing fairies, all looking grave. Emma resisted and looked back at the seemingly forgotten Regina, standing slumped against her doorframe.

"Wait, okay, no. Snow, I'm fine, can you just- I need to talk to Regina."

At this Regina looked up at her again with a confused expression. Snow looked as though she was going to object, but Emma cut her off before she could say anything, pulling away from her embrace.

"Please. Just give me a little bit of time, okay? I just went through a hell of a lot in a very short period, I need to process it, and I need to talk to Regina. Alone."

After a moment, Snow nodded. She looked over at Regina, not knowing how to feel about the woman at this point. She had destroyed their lives, she was the evil queen, Snow should hate her, should be plotting her punishment. But looking at Regina now, she was not so certain.

"Okay, just be careful, darling, all right? I'll leave you to it, but we won't be far when you need us."


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thank you for all the lovely reviews so far! They are keeping me going :) I floundered about a lot trying to figure out how to work this scene and I'm not sure I'm entirely happy with it but it is what it is. Action is definitely not my forte. Coming up soon: Finally Regina and Emma get a chance to talk! ;)