"Who's there?" Snow calls out, and with her last scrap of compassion, she pulls Regina's jacket up over her head. No doubt when Regina regains consciousness, she'll have plenty to say about the rough treatment of her designer blazer, but Snow is way past caring.
"Hello?" It's an old woman's voice, and a little part of Snow relaxes. The shadow in the corner belongs to an appropriately small body, and for the first time since they landed in this world, she feels like she has the upper hand.
Until, that is, the woman steps out of the shadows.
"Cora?" Snow gasps, taking an instinctive step back. How she wishes she'd carried some kind of weapon on her, concealed from the guards. Ever since the day she bit that apple, she's been tormented by the realization of what Regina grew up with: a woman would would murder just to control her daughter's life.
"Oh, my dear, sweet Snow," Cora says, just as honey sweet as when Snow was no more than a child. "You've returned to our land."
"My land?" Snow asks. "But I don't recognize a thing."
"Well, the curse did so much damage," Cora says, and although she's trying to sound wistful, Snow catches the glint in Cora's eye; she's proud of the devastation Regina caused.
Regina stirs on the ground, and Snow steps closer again to protect her. It's an old instinct, honed before curses and children, but Snow reminds herself once again that Regina risked her own life to save Emma from the wraith, and that puts Snow at least temporarily in her debt.
"Who's this?" Cora says, jerking her chin towards Regina. "Travelling with another princess?"
"I'm not a princess any longer," Snow says, defiant. "I'm a Queen."
"They don't seem to know that," Cora offers. "I could try to convince them, but nobody seems to listen to me."
Snow recognizes the self-pity now, the ruse of it. She hears Regina groan, and before she can stop her the jacket is being pulled down. Cora's face lights up with malicious glee, and Snow reaches for a sword that isn't there.
"Darling!" Cora crows, approaching Regina with strong strides. Still groggy, Regina stares, dumbstruck.
"Mo-mother?" She sputters eventually, touching the spot at the back of her head where Mulan's thrown weapon made contact. When Regina's brain catches up to what her mouth is saying, she scrambles backwards in the dirt, making her mayoral suit completely filthy.
"Leave. Her. Alone," Snow growls, and it's the younger Regina she remembers, that she's protecting.
"Oh, yes," Cora says, looking at Snow with thinly disguised contempt. "Just another failed seduction on Regina's part. She tried to take you from your father and she couldn't."
"I loved my father," Snow fails, missing him terribly when confronted with so much of her past. "And Regina didn't seduce me."
"That's not how my mirrors told it," Cora says, turning her focus back to her trembling daughter. "No kiss for mother, dear?"
"You're supposed to be trapped!" Regina snaps. "I banished you. I did. He promised me."
Cora tuts, raising a hand to cast a spell, to hurt Regina in some way, and Snow sees red. For all the other things Regina has done she is still the woman who saved Snow's life, still the person who held Snow when she cried, and who didn't reject her when Snow, eighteen and curious, first pushed her way into Regina's bed.
Cora raises her hand and Snow charges, launching herself at the frail woman and knocking her hard against the wall of stone. It's enough to make Cora crumple, and Snow hears a sickening crunch from her own hand, but it's a moment before the first wave of pain shoots right up her arm.
"What did you do?" Regina hisses, staring at her unconscious mother. Snow watches for a moment, sees the chest rise and fall, unsure whether to be relieved she didn't kill Cora.
"Exactly what you did for Emma," Snow explains. "And it doesn't mean I forgive you."
"Let me see," Regina says, gesturing to Snow's hand. She holds back, and Regina grabs it anyway, carefully enough to avoid the scrapes and rapidly developing bruise.
"Broken... two fingers," Regina mutters, before sighing. "I'm going to try to heal you, okay?"
"But your magic..." Snow trails off. It's not like they have many options.
Regina casts one more wary glance at Cora, before breathing gently over Snow's hand. There's a moment of nothing, before a sudden shift and cracking sound, leaving Snow able to flex her whole hand again, pain free.
"Does this mean you have it back?" Snow whispers.
"Apparently," Regina replies, her whisper just as quiet. "We should-"
"Get the hell out of here?" Snow finishes. Regina nods, grabs her by the shoulders and then the room disappears. It feels a little like flying, until Snow blinks and watches her childhood home come into focus.
"The palace," she says in wonder. "I haven't been here since you sent me out with the Huntsman."
"It was the only place I could picture clearly," Regina confesses, producing a small fireball and hurling it towards the fireplace. It warms the room almost instantly, casting shadows on the high walls.
"About what Cora said," Snow begins, but Regina steps in close then, dark and threatening. Instead of the slap that Snow braces for, a single finger is laid on her lips.
"We won't speak of it," Regina commands, every bit the Evil Queen she once was. Snow searches her face for a long moment, finding the traces of pain that bleed through, the ones she wilfully ignored for so long.
"We will," Snow says, tugging at Regina's wrist and removing her hand. "We should."
"I-" Regina says, eyes desperate and brimming with tears. Snow can't hold it back any longer, not even with the pangs of missing Charming, and Emma. She takes Regina's face in her hands, holding on even when Regina tries to pull back.
"I did this to you," Snow says. "Not just me, but I could have helped you. And I didn't."
"You didn't," Regina repeats, her words laced with suspicion.
Snow moves forward, presses the softest possible kiss to Regina's lips, and waits. Regina, despite herself, kisses back, even if only for a second.
"I loved you," Snow says. "You never believed me, but I did."
"I knew," Regina confesses. "But I was so angry... I killed your father. And then I tried to kill you."
"Now Cora will kill us both," Snow says, and it's a warning more than a threat. "Unless we make a plan, and get back to Storybrooke."
"You don't want to bring them here?" Regina asks, and Snow drops her hands from Regina's face. "You don't want to reign once more?"
"I think the fresh start might be what we all need," Snow says. "And this land is broken, Regina."
"We all are," Regina sighs.
"Well," Snow says, summoning up every bit of courage and daring she can find in herself. "That just means we have a whole lot to fix."