Disclaimer in Chapter One
AN: We've reached the end of this story, and I'm glad so many of you have liked it so far. A big thank you to the anon who gave me the prompt! Happy reading!
Emma called Regina's phone twice an hour, but it continued going straight to voicemail. She searched every square-inch of Storybrooke but came up dry. It unnerved her to think the brunette had left town, knowing full well the town line wouldn't affect the caster of the curse. Still in a state of denial, she drove around town a second time, asking people along the way whether they had spotted Regina.
"Yeah, I saw her," Leroy hauled his axe across his shoulder. "What's it to you?"
Relief flooded Emma's mind. "Where'd she go? Where is she?"
The dwarf shrugged not even a little concerned of the Evil Queen's absence. "Heading out of town by the looks of it."
Emma's heart dropped to the pit of her stomach. "She left town?"
"Good riddance, if you ask me."
"No one's asking you," the Sheriff growled, taking out her frustration on the man.
"Hey, easy there, sister," he raised a hand in defense. He turned abruptly when Emma pushed passed him. "You better not go after her! Snow will kill you!"
"No," Snow said firmly. "Under no circumstances are you leaving town."
"I'm not asking for your permission," Emma replied gathering a small bag of clothes.
"You don't even know where she is," her mother reasoned.
"Yeah, well I didn't know where you were either, and I found you all right." She leaned over her bed to grab the only picture she had of herself and Regina.
"Emma," Snow spoke softly. "If I know Regina-"
"But you don't."
"Then she won't want to be found," the tiny brunette continued as if she hadn't been interrupted.
Both women turned to see Henry standing wide-eyed in the doorway.
"Where did she go?"
Emma sighed. She had hoped to tell him she had business to take care of and leave it at that. "I don't know," she answered honestly and bent down to his eye level. "But I'll bring her back."
She threw a less-than-apologetic glance at Mary Margaret before moving to exit the room.
"I'm coming too!"
"No way, kid." Emma slung her bag over her shoulder and grabbed her keys. "Your mother has a full day head start on me and you have school."
"But I can help," Henry reasoned, tugging on Emma's arm.
"Henry!" Emma yelled exasperated, her tone harsh and frustrated. She winced at herself when she saw the hesitance and shock in the boy's face. "Sorry, I just, I don't want to lose her either."
"Then trust me," he pleaded. "I can help."
Regina had driven all night, the image of Emma, Henry and Neal as a happy family burned into her retina, the memory of Emma and Neal kissing forever stored in her brain. She believed Emma when she said that she pushed Neal away, but the fact that the man thought he was able to get anywhere with her - whatever they were was more than enough. If Emma couldn't set boundaries, then Regina would gladly set them for the blonde.
The drive wasn't easy. As soon as she crossed the boundary line a part of her wished she'd forget everything, but she kept on driving, memory intact.
Four hours into the night, she found herself in Boston and scowled at herself. She'd spent the last 28 years in Storybrooke and had no idea where to go. It was as if a magnet pulled her to wherever Emma left her mark. If that kept up, the former Mayor would find herself all over the country.
Pulling into a hotel parking lot, Regina checked herself in a room, tossed her purse onto the dresser, kicked off her heels and sat on the edge of the bed.
The silence engulfed her, ringing loudly in her ears. Letting out a shaky breath, Regina cried.
Emma placed the gas pump in the bug's tank. "Not now, Neal."
"Going somewhere?" He asked, leaning against the trunk.
Neal waited then motioned for her to continue. "Where?"
She turned toward him exasperated. "I can't be near you right now, okay?" She took a moment to think. "Or ever actually."
"What?" Neal laughed thinking it was a joke. He moved closer to the blonde. "What do you mean, ever?"
She stared at him for a moment and whispered. "Regina left. After yesterday. We had an argument or something, and she's gone."
"So are you two," he made a motion with his hands as if weighing his options.
Emma pursed her lips and slammed the nozzle back in its home. "Look, Regina's gone and I need to get her back, and by the time we come back I want you gone."
"What did I do?"
"She left because of you!"
Henry opened the passenger door from inside and stuck his head out. "Are you guys fighting?"
"Back in the car, kid." They spoke in unison. Henry rolled his eyes before shutting the door.
"What do I have anything to do with it?" Neal questioned.
"Because! She's tired of having you around and us hanging out and she caught you kissing me," Emma hissed the last part for the sake of Henry.
"She's tired of me or she's tired of you hanging out with me?" He folded his arms over his chest, his eyebrow raised.
The blonde opened her mouth but shut it quickly.
"I thought so."
"That's beside the point," she huffed.
"No," he leaned in to whisper. "I think you like spending time with me. I think you miss it. And Regina? She knows that too."
Emma's eyes flashed and she pushed the man away roughly. The worry in her eyes clouded over the anger when he spoke again. "You know I'm right."
She eyed him as his words sunk in. She couldn't remember a day in the past couple months where she and Neal hadn't had some form of interaction. She never lied to Regina about where she was going, but she never thought it'd be a problem. They were just friends.
Emma shut her eyes and turned away momentarily. Two people who used to be in a relationship could be friends. They could go out for drinks and share a son. She groaned. That's exactly how her and Regina started out. God, what the hell, Swan?
"Maybe I did, okay? Maybe I missed you for a little bit." She pushed him again when he smirked triumphant. "But I'm not gonna let someone I love slip through my fingers again."
"You love her?"
She yanked her necklace off her neck and placed it in his hand, closing his fist around it. She spoke with a quiet determination. "You know what pisses me off?" He squinted confused at the question but let her continue. "People thinking they know what's best for me. My parents sent me away and you broke my heart. You know what would have happened to us?"
He shook his head.
"We would have raised a family together. We would have lived a good enough life with just the three of us, and we wouldn't have known about the curse or magic or anything."
She moved to put her palm to his cheek and smiled. "But I'm glad you did." She laughed at the thought. "I'm glad my parents stuck me in a wardrobe. I'm glad I was in the system for so damn long. I'm glad you framed me."
She pulled his head to meet her gaze when he tried to turn away in shame. "I am. Because I wouldn't have met Regina."
"She left for your best interest too," he tried sheepishly
"I know, but this time I deserved it."
He chuckled awkwardly, shuffling his feet in a nonchalant manner.
"Here," Emma placed the keys to the bug in his hand.
He made a face. "Is this the burning of all your ex-boyfriend's stuff phase?"
She smirked and started to walk away. When she got to the passenger door she faltered and turned slowly. Looking embarrassed she walked back to him.
He laughed and tossed her back the keys. "I'll have the lighter fluid ready when you and the missus come back."
Regina wandered the streets of Boston, not entirely certain of her destination but needing to get out of the hotel room. Boston was huge compared to Storybrooke. The streets were littered with people, all of whom she had no idea of who they were but at the same time had no idea who she was. The thought was only mildly comforting when faced with the overwhelming amount of loneliness.
It had been two days since she left Storybrooke, and the former Mayor was almost disappointed that Emma hadn't been right on her tail hauling her back to their little town. But that's what she wanted, wasn't it? To get away.
At least she didn't curse an entire population just to get away this time, she mused. Anyone be damned who said Regina Mills never made any progress.
She continued her walk, her high-waisted skirt, blouse and blazer ensemble blending in well with the lunch rush of business men and women who pushed passed everyone in their haste. Time was money to them, but to Regina, time was her jail cell. She had too much of it, and with every blonde woman that walked passed her, with every brunette boy running down the street, with every flash of a yellow bug (which happened more often than it should), Regina felt the bars close in.
It was the second day Regina found it. Having spent the day mindlessly wandering about, she found a bench close to the harbor-side. The seagulls cawed, the waves pushed rhythmically against the elevated path, and the red and white lighthouse just off to the distance spun its light in a revolving endless loop. It was quite nice actually. Instead of just docks built up to the shore, it led up to a bricked pathway where, Regina noticed, runners, dog-walkers and couples would take route. Letting her tired feet rest for a moment, she sat and closed her eyes, letting the smell of sea salt and a hint of fish remind her, just briefly, of home.
After that, the brunette found herself going to that bench every day, with a novel, a small lunch or just to sit. Every day she thought of going to a new city, laughing at herself for how ironic the turn of events played out, but she somehow convinced herself to stay.
"You said you can help, kid. Get that thinking cap on." Emma dropped onto her bed in a slightly less than seedy motel room.
"She's still in Boston," Henry said exasperated for the fourth time.
"We've been here for three days, Henry."
"She wouldn't go that far from me," he reasoned.
"She'd go further from me," Emma pouted to herself.
"No offense," Henry said with a smirk, "but I trump you."
Emma sat up and glared. "So all we have is that your mom just got in her car and drove and that she's somewhere in Boston."
"Yes," he said as if she was finally getting it.
"That's next to nothing, kid." Getting up, she pulled out the picture of herself and Regina. "Stay here, I'm gonna check the hotels again."
She waited until he acknowledged the command and left the room.
Emma never thought she'd be in Boston again. After finally settling down, she couldn't picture herself being anywhere but Storybrooke, but the background noise of cars honking, people chattering and the energy of the city brought a sense of nostalgia she never thought she possessed.
She tried every single classy hotel she could think of, showing Regina's picture to every member of staff on the lobby floor and even went to an internet cafe to see if she could trace Regina's credit card. Apparently the woman was smart enough to carry cash when running from a former bail bondswoman.
By the time midnight rolled around, Emma felt down on her luck. The looming uncertainty that she'd never find Regina was becoming more and more a reality. She had phoned Henry earlier to state she'd be back late and to order room service. Truth be told, the blonde didn't want to face the boy and have to tell him again that she hadn't found his mother.
So Emma wandered, finding herself at the harbor she spent so many nights escaping loneliness. Little did she know that hours earlier, Regina had been sitting on the benches a mere twenty feet away.
Regina was drunk for the first time in a long time. A really long time. She stumbled as she walked through the streets of Boston on her four-inch stilettos, the off-beat clicking of her heels were the only sound in the quiet 2 AM atmosphere.
She had been in Boston for a week when she finally hit rock bottom. Grabbing a coffee at a local shop, she held her breath when she saw a mess of blonde hair followed by a brown haired boy in her periphery. She turned slightly, preparing herself for a reunion, but when she turned and saw that it was just a mother and son grabbing a late snack, her heart broke and she left her untouched coffee on the barista bar and raced back to her hotel to raid the mini fridge.
The small bottles weren't enough, but they provided the buzz she needed. She rushed to the nearest liquor store and purchased the biggest bottle of tequila they had. Drinking a quarter of it well into the night, the brunette concocted the brilliant idea of finding Emma's old apartment and cursing it. With what yet, she wasn't sure, but she'd think of something. And it'd be evil.
Taking numerous attempts to slip into her heels and forgoing her trench coat, she took a final swig of her liquid courage and noisily exited the hotel.
She couldn't care less of the men eyeing her as she wobbled down the street. Instead, she stopped a few along the way asking if they knew where Emma lived. Ignoring their advances, she brushed passed them like the Evil Queen she was and found herself at the harbor.
Who needed Emma Swan, anyhow? She spent her whole life without her, what's five insignificant months of relationship? She stumbled. No, they weren't in a relationship. Regina was just a placeholder for that Cassidy man.
Bypassing her bench completely, she inched towards the simple chain barricade, separating the raised platform from the five foot drop to the ocean below.
In any other given circumstance, the chain would have prevented sober, life-loving people from toppling into the water below. The 4-foot poles connected by the chain was no match for a drunken Regina Mills on stilettos.
Nothing. They'd been in Boston for six days and came up with nothing. Emma huffed and stared at the picture of Regina as if willing her to spring up from the print and appear before her. She'd been staring at the picture, going over notes and trying to mentally get inside Regina's head. The cycle repeated well passed midnight, and Emma was nowhere closer to finding the brunette than finding another portal back to the Enchanted Forest.
"Where are you?" She whispered to the woman in the picture, looking displeased but Emma could see in her eyes how much she was enjoying herself.
Needing to clear her head, she tucked the picture in the breast pocket of her jacket before leaving a note for Henry, letting him know she'd be back.
Emma lost herself in her thoughts on her walk. The quiet calm in the early morning hours was a reminder of why she stayed in the city, but at the same time, the quiet calm of her apartment reminded her why she left.
Habitually, she made her way to the docks and sat at her bench, rolling her eyes at a drunken woman in what looked like a hoochie dress twenty feet away. Thursday Ladies Night was still successful at the club, it seemed.
Emma huffed and let her chin drop into her hands. What was she gonna do? She refused to return to Storybrooke unless she found Regina. Whether the brunette wanted to come back with her was another question.
She jerked her head up when the sound of splashing interrupted her peaceful thinking. She glanced around seeing no one in sight. Not even a drunken hoochie dresser . . .
She bolted up and ran to where she last saw the woman and peered over the chain-link barrier. The water was eerily still, reflecting Emma like a mirror. Maybe she didn't hear right. Maybe a rock just fell.
Suddenly, a mop of brown hair broke through the surface with a loud gasp.
"Holy shit," Emma mumbled, whipping off her jacket and diving into the water.
Despite the freezing temperature and the burn in her eyes from the salt, she tread towards the woman, avoided flailing limbs and wrapped an arm around her torso, pulling them towards the dock. "I got you. I got you."
She heaved to lift the woman onto stable ground before yanking herself up, lying face first on the wood beneath her and panting for breath.
Turning her head to inspect the drowner, she noticed her chin-length hair clinging to her face, her skin-tight dress wrapped around her like a second skin due to the moisture and the missing heel on her left foot. Emma scrunched up her face, wiping the water out of her eyes. She knew that dress, those heels, that a-
So this is it, Regina thought relatively calmly as her body submerged in the cold water which was just as good as time in sobering up. This is how the Evil Queen is going to die. Drunk and disoriented in the coast of Boston.
She almost let herself be taken in. The blackness of the water consumed her, and she briefly wondered that maybe she was dead already until the need for oxygen burned her lungs. But she couldn't find it in her to move her limbs. She felt like dead weight, and panic seized her, pulling her deeper and deeper into the blackness.
An image of Emma and Henry popped into her mind, and Regina calmed ever so slightly. They'll be happy, she thought. Just as her need for air became overbearing, she used all her energy to propel herself upwards, drinking the salty water just before she broke the surface.
She gagged and flailed profusely, trying her best to stay afloat when an arm wrapped around her, leading them to where the smaller boats were docked and lifting her up onto the man-made path.
She sucked in air greedily, wretching and spitting out bile to clear her airways. She kept a hand planted on the dock while using the other to press against her chest, urging her lungs to breathe in.
It wasn't until the hairs on the back of her neck prickled that she remembered her savior for the evening. Her entire body shivered, be it from the cold or some other cause, when she heard the voice.
She stilled, disbelieving she'd heard correctly. Slowly, she turned, glancing through the wet curtain of hair occluding her view, but there was no doubting the blonde hair and now see-through wife beater of the other. There was Emma Swan, doing what she does best at saving Regina, and looking like a wet rat to boot.
Instantly, the blonde crawled toward her and cupped her face between her hands, brushing away drenched and sticking locks from her face. "Oh god, Regina."
All efforts of Regina attempting to breathe was thrown out the window when she felt the blonde's arms wrap tightly around her neck and back. When she pulled back, the relief and wonder in the younger woman's face couldn't be missed, but Regina simply cleared her throat and inched away.
"You hold up your title well, Sheriff," Regina said hoarsely and none too gracefully moved to stand up. Her missing heel put her at an awkward height, but she marched purposefully off the swaying deck and back up to the solid pathway.
"Wait, Regina." Emma walked quickly to keep up with her and tugged her arm. The goosebumps were raised so heavily on the woman. "What the hell were you doing?"
"It seemed like a fine night for a swim, Miss Swan. Don't you agree?"
Ignoring her sass, Emma kept her hand on the older woman's bare arm and rubbed. "You're freezing." Without waiting for a response, she stalked to her discarded jacket and wrapped it around Regina's shoulder.
Averting her gaze, the brunette simply clutched the jacket closer around her and kicked off her pairless heel before walking to her bench.
Emma gave her own arms a quick once over before following suit and stopping just before the sitting woman. She tugged on her hand. "Let's get you out of those clothes."
"My, my, aren't you presumptuous about this evening?" Her fake smile glowed in the moonlight.
"Regina!" Emma groaned, her irritation mixing with frustration, coldness and relief. Taking a breath, she crouched in front of the woman, taking her hands within her own and spoke softly. "Regina, please come home."
The brunette turned her head away, locking her jaw. Emma continued trying to search for those captivating brown eyes. "I am so, so sorry. I never took into account your feelings, and I just brushed you off."
She moved her hand to the older woman's cheek but it was quickly swatted away. "There's no need to rehash what I already know, Miss Swan."
Emma swallowed hard. The cold, distancing gaze that Regina was known for surfaced. "Regina, I-" Emma choked on her words feeling her stomach drop. No, no, no. This can't be it.
In a fluid motion, she stood enough to slide onto the bench, putting space between herself and the brunette. Her hands clenched in her lap as she studied them furiously. Fear crippled any other movement in the blonde. Fear that this woman, this amazing, borderline-psychotic, stunning woman would walk out without a second glance.
Usually Regina reveled in silencing her adversary, but the silence between herself and Emma made her uncomfortable. A small part of her, more if she wasn't lying, was relieved she'd been found. But the hurt part of her, the part that was the sole motivator of most of her decisions in life, screamed at her to get away before she suffered anymore.
Warmth began to return to her under Emma's red leather jacket when she saw the blonde beside her shiver uncontrollably yet unaware of it. She opened her mouth to offer the jacket back when Emma spoke, her voice quiet, desperate and quivering.
"When I was eighteen, I gave my baby up for adoption."
Regina whipped her head to Emma's direction, confusion written all over her face. That wasn't much of a secret.
"When I was twenty-eight," Emma continued, "I followed that kid to this little middle-of-nowhere town in Maine, and I met this woman."
Regina shut her mouth, leaning her head in to hear more.
"I don't know when exactly," Emma's voice contained a hint of a chuckle, "but I started to have feelings for that woman."
The blonde's hands flexed to generate more blood flow. "Five months ago, I got to kiss her for the first time. Nothing ever felt as good knowing that I could do that with her whenever we want."
"But four months ago," Emma's voice lowered, ashamed and solemn, "I made a stupid mistake in reliving my past. A week ago, she walked out on me, and I don't blame her at all. Tonight she almost died, and right now, I don't know if I'll ever get to be with her again."
Regina inhaled sharply. She didn't need to see Emma's face to know that when the blonde looked up to the night sky inhaling deeply that her eyes were glassy.
"At-" Emma cleared her throat and looked at her watch, "2:32 am, I'm telling her that I, that I love her, that I don't deserve her, that I want to be anything she wants me to be just as long as I get to be with her."
Regina's mouth parted ever so slightly. This was the most Emma willingly shared without a secret in return. It was debatable which woman was so heavily guarded, but right now, the blonde had put her heart on her sleeve for Regina to do with it what she will.
Emma turned her head to catch Regina who had been staring the entire time. Her eyes were watery, her cheeks were red, her lips blue and her hair clinging to her in a mess of blonde tangles.
There she is, Regina thought breathlessly, caught in Emma's gaze. There's the woman who despite every evil thing she'd done fought tirelessly for her.
"I'm sorry," Emma gasped out before turning away to hide her weakness.
Emma hid her face in her hands, taking deep breaths to steady her breathing. She couldn't let Regina see her cry. She was supposed to be the strong one.
Suddenly she felt her jacket drape over her shoulders and the weight of the bench lighten. She closed her eyes and gasped out loudly, not wanting to look up because if she did, she knew Regina would be gone.
Her arms were tugged away from her face and pulled to stand her up. She held her breath seeing Regina still there before her, tugging the jacket around her closer and rubbing her hands up and down her arms over the leather.
She wasn't sure what Regina was doing and she was partially scared to find out.
"It's passed 2:32 and you still haven't told her," she whispered staring intently at Emma.
Emma's eyes widened and immediately sought Regina's. "I love you," she whispered softly.
Regina's lips tilted in a genuine smile. "I think there's more to that."
Emma chuckled in the surreal moment. She closed the gap between them, their damp bodies pressing against each other. Without her heels, Regina was a good four inches shorter than the blonde, so Emma bent her head keeping each other warm with the mingling of their hot breath. She spoke sincerely and absolutely. "I don't deserve you. You can have whoever you want, and I don't care if we're girlfriends or friends, or we get married or whatever. If the only thing I can get is some place in your life then I'll take it."
Regina bit her lip and looked down. "A week after you stormed through Storybrooke, I was intrigued by you."
She chanced a glance up at Emma and gasped, grabbing her face between her palms. "Your lips are blue!"
Emma ignored her worried state and held onto Regina's waist. "What do you want us to be?"
"Emma, you're going to get hypothermia," Regina said firmly and began to tug at the blonde's hand. "So we're going to go home, put you in bed and warm you up."
"Mighty presumptuous of you," Emma quipped, noticing that her teeth chattered.
"I wouldn't want my girlfriend to die on me," Regina said offhandedly.
Emma grinned and tugged Regina back to her, catching her lips, allowing their warmth to sooth her flesh.
She felt Regina grin against her lips before capturing them again, willing the kiss to last longer and deeper.
"Emma, I-" Regina faltered, her words dying on her lips. Whenever she expressed love to anyone they always left her, so she clutched the younger woman closer to her. "I-"
Emma placed another soft kiss on the brunette. "I'll still be here when you're ready to tell me," Emma promised.
Regina's eyes brightened. She had absolutely no doubt that Emma spoke the truth.
Regina turned from the inspecting some vegetables in Storybrooke's grocery store to see the speaker. She'd been back in Storybrooke for a couple of days now, and frankly, it was good to be home. It was a pleasant surprise to see that Henry had tagged along in his blonde mother's quest to find her, and by the time afternoon rolled around, the family were in Regina's Benz heading home.
She eyed Neal with pursed lips. "Mr. Cassidy."
"It's good to see you back."
Regina made a noise of acknowledgment before grabbing a few stalks of celery.
"Emma went crazy without you. Tore up all the streets and shook down everyone looking for you."
She looked at the shuffling man from the corner of her eye before walking over to the carrots.
"I'm gonna go."
She turned to raise a curious eyebrow.
"I'm gonna leave Storybrooke. There's nothing for me here." He glanced down at the key in his hand attached to a swan key chain. "But apparently I got a car back in Boston."
Regina stared at the items in his hand and couldn't help but feel just a little bit better. She nodded politely before turning back to her grocery shopping.
"I see it."
She turned back and questioned when he didn't continue. "See what, Mr. Cassidy?"
"I see what she sees in you. You're not that bad," Neal nodded before offering up his patented grin and turning to go.
"Hey, found the bread," Emma said from behind Regina as she placed the bread and slyly dropped a box of cookies in the basket.
Regina turned and motioned to the cookies with her eyes.
"I'll pay for it," Emma defended.
Regina grinned at her petulant pout before closing the gap between them and kissing her suddenly. She held onto the collar of her jacket before pulling back slightly. "I love you."
The words came out easily, as if she'd been saying them for years. She knew she'd been feeling it for months, but the easiness was liberating.
Emma grinned goofily, turning to follow Regina as she continued her shopping like she didn't just leave herself vulnerable to the blonde seconds before.
"I wonder what I'll get if I pay for the groceries," Emma joked catching up with Regina and taking the basket from her.
"How long do you plan on paying for them?" The brunette quipped.
"As long as I'm around," Emma said and laced her fingers with Regina's.
"Between your appetite and Henry's, you'll be going bankrupt before Henry enters high school, dear." Regina's eyes sparkled with mirth.
Emma pressed her lips just above Regina's ear and whispered sultry. "Maybe I can convince the Mayor to give me a raise."
Regina laughed out loud and pushed the blonde away. "That's your mother."
Emma scrunched up her face, disgusted with herself at having forgotten.
"I hope you save up, dear." Regina smiled. "You're in for years and years' worth of groceries."
There you have it! The original prompt was sent by an anon on Tumblr: A future fic where Neal comes to Storybrooke and is reunited with Emma and Henry. Regina sees this and decides to leave Storybrooke. Emma and Henry find out and go after her and Swan Queen ending! I hope I did this story justice, anon! For everyone who's read, reviewed, favourited and alerted this story, I thank you so much for taking the time to do so.