But you only need the light when it's burning low

Only miss the sun when it starts to snow

Only know you love her when you let her go

Only know you've been high when you're feeling low

Only hate the road when you're missing home

Only know you love her when you let her go

Staring at the ceiling in the dark

Same old empty feeling in your heart

'Cause love comes slow and it goes so fast

Well you see her when you fall asleep

But never to touch and never to keep

'Cause you loved her too much and you dive too deep

"Let Her Go" By Passenger

Coveted – Chapter 15

The night is unusually bright as dawn looms ready to break over the horizon. Lightning flashes in the distance illuminating the sky and creating the illusion of intermittent daylight. The weather does nothing to ease the knots in Emma's gut. She swallows hard and focuses on the road ahead. She'll be at the mayoral mansion soon. Even during peak traffic hours it only takes about ten minutes to get from her apartment to Regina's place. At this hour, with the streets abandoned and the traffic signals set to stop or yield signs, it will only be another minute or so before she has to face Regina.

What am I going to say?! Emma panics and eases her right foot off the accelerator letting her car roll down the street. There is so much she wants to tell Regina, but where to begin? Hi Regina so sorry to wake you. I know that you hate my guts, but I just wanted to say I'm sorry for being piece a shit. Oh and by the way I'm in love with you. Please put down that shotgun. Emma stops the car so that she can bang her head against the steering wheel. She lets out an exasperated sound that is equal parts scream and sigh. There is nothing I can say. Nothing at all. There is no making this better. Emma's chest tightens and burns with anxiety and sorrow. How could I have really made all the wrong choices? Emma is astounded by her own actions. It's as though someone else has been living her life for the last few months and created an absolute cluster fuck. Emma's body twitches with frustration. She would give anything to take it all back. If only she'd been honest from the beginning and avoided the mountain of pain she'd caused for herself and everyone else.

"Ugh." Emma groans aloud leaving her forehead resting against the steering wheel. This had seemed like the right thing to do when she was talking to Mary Margaret, but now she wasn't so sure. What if she won't hear me out? What if I can't fix this? What if she hates me forever? What if she really has a shotgun? Emma shakes her head then rubs her hands over her face to clear away the doubt. Emma can't let Regina believe that she meant all the horrible things she said for a minute longer. Even if Regina turns her away, and never forgives her, she must know the truth. Emma takes several cleansing breathes before turning left onto another empty street.

Oh my God, what if her fucking assistant is there? Emma wonders suddenly and stops the car again. A cold panic seizes Emma's muscles and sends the hairs on the back of her neck standing on end. She's already on Regina's street, and after another two blocks she will be able to see if anyone is parked outside the mansion. Her stomach turns with resentment and renewed regret. That's what you deserve. Emma reprimands herself, but despite her best efforts the memory of Melanie hanging all over Regina flashes in Emma's head. She shuts her eyes tight as if that will stop Regina's hands from holding Melanie's body or the younger woman's lips from kissing Regina's neck. Her memory of the pair in Regina's office morphs into an image of the two making love in Regina's bed. The thoughts make her sick and more than a little angry. Emma is fully cognizant of the hypocrisy in her jealousy, but she can't control the nausea bubbling in her stomach.

Thunder roars loudly nearby and the crashing sound is enough to snap Emma out of her dread-filed trance. Come on, this is about apologizing and trying to make things right. If Melanie is there then it means that Regina has been happy. That's what matters. Emma tells herself, compelling her foot to step on the gas once more. As her car inches forward at a snail's pace, Emma continuously reminds herself that this is about making things right and coming clean to Regina, not about her own feelings.

When Regina's corner comes into view, Emma exhales a heavy sigh of relief. There is only a classic black Mercedes-Benz stationed in front of Regina's house. Emma knows she has a lot of groveling and confessing to do, and she is ready to do it, but she would rather not have that smug twelve-year-old in the audience. Her heart lifts just slightly with hope, even if she doesn't acknowledge it.

The Volkswagen's brakes squeak when Emma comes to a stop in front of Regina's house. She stares at the imposing white mansion in sheer terror. Her wide eyes sting from the litany of tears she has shed, and in anticipation of the ones she knows are yet to come. Emma's heart pounds wildly with uncertainty. I hope I don't die of a heart attack right now. Emma imagines Regina opening her front door some time after sunrise only to find Emma stiff and lifeless in her car. Probably wearing some kind of undignified expression.

The rain softens to a gentle drizzle, intensifies into a downpour, and eases back out to a drizzle again, but all the while Emma is literally petrified. She is physically incapable of moving a muscle. I can't do this. Emma repeats in her head as she stares at Regina's front door. There is a light on downstairs. Regina is awake. This is real. This is really happening. Fuck.

An ornate silver spoon creates a melodic rhythm as Regina stirs her tea. It's a combination of linden, chamomile and honey that Archie insisted she try. Regina supposes it can't hurt, it's not like anything will make her more of an insomniac. The light brown liquid swirling around Regina's teacup transfixes her gaze and her brain stops moving in a thousand different directions.

Regina blows on her tea as she brings it up to her lips. Not bad, she thinks leaning forward on the kitchen counter to continue sipping her drink.

Well I'll be damned. Regina thinks after a few minutes. She is surprised to find her heart rate has actually slowed some. It may be the tea or perhaps the distant rain showers, but the tension in Regina's shoulders has also eased a great deal. Maybe I'll actually be able to sleep tonight. A tiny, but hopeful, smile creeps up Regina's bare lips.

The clock on the oven reads a quarter to two before Regina feels relaxed enough to head upstairs to bed. As she rinses her cup, Regina starts getting excited by the prospect sleep. Real sleep. Not just a catnap before starting her day, or dozing off in her office out of sheer exhaustion. She relishes the sensation of heavy eyelids and a drowsy brain. Regina's bare feet don't make a sound as she walks over the cold kitchen tile to shut off the light. She pulls her robe more tightly around herself before padding through the foyer to shut off the lights in her office.

It could be the unusual light she sees out of the corner of her eye, or perhaps she senses Emma's presence, but suddenly the warm comfort that had settled in Regina's chest and belly vanish leaving a cold hollow feeling in its place. Regina stops dead in her tracks. No, she thinks in disbelief. She wouldn't. Regina had seen a lot of shit from Emma in the preceding months, but she was done right? What more could she possibly want from me? Regina had conceded. She'd thrown in the towel and admitted defeat. Would Emma not stop until she had blood? Actual tangible blood?

I will not stand for this. Regina decides, making herself budge from the center of the foyer. She has been standing still so long that her back aches when she moves. The outline of her footprint stays behind as evidence of her body's sudden outburst of perspiration.

The heavy curtain hanging over the window is parted enough for Regina to see out to the street without having to move the fabric to the side. After a deep breath, she leans forward and peers through the opening. It takes a moment for Regina's brain to accept what her eyes have observed. Emma is indeed outside. Pacing up and down the sidewalk. Talking to herself. No. She's arguing with herself. Regina moves away from the window quickly when Emma turns to walk in her direction. Emma is so engrossed in her own personal debate she wouldn't notice a pink polka doted elephant standing in the window, but that doesn't stop Regina's heart from racing. I wish I had added moats. Is Regina's first thought, and then her stomach begins to churn with anxiety. Why are you here? Regina asks as if Emma could read her mind.

After several minutes of standing indecisively behind her luxurious curtains, Regina wonders if perhaps Emma has left. How long does she plan to stay out there? Regina wonders while sneaking another peek at the street. Emma has stopped pacing and is now leaning against her ghastly vehicle with her head in her hands. The sight of an obviously broken Emma weeping in the cold evening, thin rain coming down over her already soaked body, stirs a soft sympathy in Regina's heart. What she wants to do is bring Emma inside and envelope her with the warmth of her love and forgiveness. But what she will allow herself is a different matter entirely. Enough, Regina decides striding purposefully to the front door.

Regina hesitates when she reaches for the doorknob. I made myself small for you, she talks to an imaginary Emma in her mind. She needs to break the soft spot she holds for this woman that has brought her so much strife and heartache. No more Miss Swan. I will not allow you to torment me any longer. Regina is resolute in her conviction and her sympathy fades to anger. After another deep breath to summon her pain, Regina flings open the front door with unexpected force.

The sound of the front door swinging open causes Emma to freeze. She is already chilled to the bone, and it is only in this moment she realizes she is soaking wet. Emma is sure that it had stopped raining when she forced herself out of the car, but in her hours of indecision the drizzle must have returned. For a second she wonders if Regina's figure in the doorway is an illusion. A mirage her mind has produced out of exhaustion. The heat from Regina's glare says otherwise.

Neither woman makes a sound. Regina stands expectantly at the front door with her arms crossed over her chest and left eyebrow arched high waiting for Emma to explain her presence. Emma can't move. She can't speak. She can't even think. All she can do is stand there. Her eyes open impossibly wide and brimming with terror.

After several seconds of intense staring, Regina decides that she has no more time for Emma's games. If Emma wants to stand outside in the rain all night then so be it, but Regina is not going to catch pneumonia on her account.

Regina shakes her head while making a guttural sound conveying her disgust. She takes a last look at Emma then steps back to close the door and get into a warm dry bed.

"Wait!" Emma yells, her voice so hoarse from the cold and her own crying that she hardly makes any sound at all.

The shout gives Regina pause and stops her from completely shutting the door. Something in Emma's tone knocks her off balance. It's not just the agony in her voice, but also the look on her face. Can someone fake that kind of emotion? Regina wonders. She is no longer willing to put anything past Emma, not after everything that's happened.

Silence claims Emma's tongue once more, and Regina rolls her eyes before slamming the door closed.

"Please!" Emma's scream hardly produces a whisper despite her best effort. She feels like a lioness trying to roar without lungs. When Regina disappears inside the house, Emma kicks futilely at the ground. "Fuck!" She yells, but her words disappear into nothing. Emma wants to cry at the irony. For so long she had been quiet about the truth, and now that she was ready to come clean her body had turned in revolt. "Fuck!" Emma cries again, her raspy voice coming through as she kicks her driver's side door. "Damn it!" Another curse joins a kick to the fender of her blameless car. For once Emma is a grateful for her ancient bug that wears a variety of dings and scratches like battle scares, and is too old and crappy to have a car alarm.

Regina peers through the window expecting Emma to be gone, but instead finds Storybrooke's Sheriff kicking the shit out of her own car. The thing is already a garish sight and will certainly not benefit from any additional damage. She's really lost her mind. Regina decides before returning to the front door. She will not have neighbors witnessing the emotional and psychological breakdown of this woman outside her home in the middle of the night. Not that Regina really cares what people think of her, but despite it all, she doesn't want Henry to hear of his biological mother's apparent mental instability.

"Miss Swan," Regina's voice brings an immediate halt to Emma's assault and sends a violent shock throughout her entire body. Emma hasn't heard Regina speak in weeks, and she hadn't expected the mere sound of her voice to send her knees quaking. "I appreciate that you are having some kind of nervous breakdown and seem quite resolute in doing so on my sidewalk, but I would appreciate it if you would kindly go elsewhere to vandalize your property." Regina's words are as stiff and cold as her countenance.

The familiar pain of immobility threatens Emma's body, but she fights it with every ounce of strength in her being.

"Please Regina," Emma squeaks desperately while taking several steps forward. She will do anything to keep Regina from closing the door on her again. Emma can see the other woman's patience is waning if not altogether depleted.

"That is close enough." Regina warns stopping Emma in her tracks three feet away from her front step.

Emma nods and takes a moment to collect herself. She can't blame Regina for not wanting to be near her, but Regina's words gauge a hole in her heart nevertheless.

"Say whatever you've come to say and let's be done with this." Regina demands, her arms crossed tightly over her chest once more. Regina could blame the cold, wet and windy evening for her trembling body, but she knows better than that. She hates the physiological effect Emma has on her despite everything that's happened.

"I don't know where to begin." Emma confesses, her throat burning with each syllable she utters. It seems that not knowing what to say has become Emma's strong suit.

"That hardly seems like my problem Miss Swan. It's very late, now if you'll excuse me I'm going to bed. You can make an appointment with Melanie if you need to speak with me. I ask that you not return here again in the middle of the night. Actually I ask that you not return at all. I am not some common whore you can call upon as the mood strikes you." Regina really has had enough. As much as she may have missed seeing Emma's face, she will not let herself be treated this way any longer.

"Please Regina, I know I don't deserve it, but I'm begging you for a chance. Just let me say this and I'll go. I swear I will never bother you again." Unwanted tears stream down Emma's cheeks and a surge of panic courses through her veins.

Regina forces herself to believe that this is still some ploy on Emma's part. A new scheme to humiliate or degrade her, but every fiber in Regina's soul believes Emma's pain is genuine. No, she cannot allow herself to be manipulated. Her head will not allow her heart to withstand any more pain.

"Well you finally have one thing right. I don't owe you a thing." Regina's chin sticks out in feigned superiority to conceal her doubt. For a long time Regina has suppressed her role in this train wreck, but seeing Emma now brings her culpability into full relief. A small voice reminds Regina that she has played dirty since the day Emma arrived in Storybrooke. You have framed, jailed, poisoned, and slandered Emma, or have you forgotten? Regina blinks hard to stop the truth her conscience is forcing her to acknowledge. Even in this twisted game you were happy to fight fire with fire. Regina shudders as she recalls the lengths she'd gone to for retaliation. Embarrassment floods Regina's system making her blood run as icy as her trembling skin. She's played the game to deleterious effect, and has been all too happy to lay the blame entirely at Emma's feet.

"I know." Emma drops her eyes to the floor. "I just need to tell you how sorry I am." She croaks,

Each beat of Emma's heart pounds in her eardrums, in her throat, in her temples and in every other place that shouldn't be pulsating.

Regina belts out a throaty laugh. "You need?" She asks indignant. "Why should I care about what you need?" In a split second the laughter clears from Regina's face and is replaced with a sneer. "Do you know what I need?!" Regina asks letting her pain and anger push at the seams of her fractured armor.

Emma hangs her head and wills herself to stop crying. She hadn't meant to sound like this was about her, but the more she considers it, the more she recognizes the selfishness in her motives. Emma doesn't only want to assuage the pain she's caused Regina – she is also desperate for Regina's forgiveness.

"What I need Miss Swan, is for you to leave me alone. Don't come here looking like a kicked puppy all miserable and pathetic. Just stay away from me and stay the hell away from Henry. We don't need you." Regina's words ring hollow even to herself. She recognizes the faux disdain in her voice. It is the same artificial tone Emma used during their last conversation in the Sheriff's Office.

"You're right." Emma admits simply, her eyes still trained on the cement of Regina's walkway. Emma focuses on the excruciating pain in her chest to keep her tears from spilling. "I just wanted you to know that I didn't mean anything I said." Emma's raspy voice shakes. Regina ignores the discomforting sensation of her bare feet on the painted wooden and finds herself inching forward to the edge of the porch to better hear what Emma is saying. "The last time we spoke, I mean." Emma clarifies as if Regina didn't know exactly to what Emma was referring. "I just got so messed up in my head." Emma explains to the tiny weed growing between fissures. No, I'm not going to make excuses. "Anyway," Emma shakes her head to stop the rest of her explanation from forming. "I'm just so sorry," Emma forces her eyes up to Regina so the other woman can see her sincerity. "I would do anything to take it all back." Emma meets Regina's cold glare and it breaks the faltering hold she has on her emotions. The hot tears streak down her frozen cheeks and burn eyes that are already all too irritated. Regina looks away at a suddenly fascinating puddle forming on the street. "I. . ." Emma struggles to keep the sobs from breaking out of her chest. "I just never meant to destroy everything." Her voice cracks again, and Emma is sure it will go at any minute. "I'm so sorry I hurt you Regina." Emma's words are barely a whisper, but the wind picks them up and slams them square into Regina's chest. When Emma hangs her head once more, Regina shuts her eyes, tightly knitting her eyebrows together. Emma's anguish is palpable. "I got so scared." Emma fights her failing voice. "That night when I came here to tell you that I was giving up this morbid competition I started. . ." Emma swallows hard to move the knot in her throat but the thing stays firmly in place. "We got so close. . ." Her voice fades as she recalls the sensation of Regina's body so close to hers. "I knew that I couldn't resist you again." Emma's voice is so small Regina can hardly understand her. "It's no excuse." Emma says resolutely. "I am just so sorry." Emma doesn't know another word to convey the remorse she feels. Nothing can express how apologetic she is for her actions.

The pair falls silent. When Regina forces open her eyes she can see Emma is shivering from head to toe. The sight makes her stomach drop despite her attempts to stay unbreakable. It is no longer nearly as amusing as it was to let Emma stand in the rain, no matter how light the drizzle it is.

It's not that Regina doesn't believe Emma's words of contrition, but what is she supposed to do? She is no priest to grant her absolution. Regina's own hands are far from unsullied. Shame washes over Regina's less than regal shoulders. She reminds herself again of her own part in this. Regina could have easily ignored Emma when all of this began. She could have refused to participate instead of meeting Emma play-for-play. You wanted it as much as she did. Regina admits. She wanted Emma's attention. She wanted the excitement. She needed to chase the thrill that began the night Emma appeared and turned Storybrooke on its head. Not just Storybrooke. Regina admits once more. Regina can't deny the fire Emma ignited inside of her cold dead soul from instant she laid eyes on her. It makes sense that Emma will be her undoing. That she will be the one to break the curse and vanquish the Evil Queen as Henry's book professes.

Regina's thoughts turn to the curse as her eyes glide over Emma's form. It's your fault. Her conscience roars in her head. Everything she has ever been through is your fault. Every heartache. Every injustice. You tore her from the arms of loving parents who wanted her, and sentenced her to a life of abandonment and pain. She was truly innocent then, and she paid the price for actions far beyond her control. It's Regina's turn to feel the unique ache of guilt. Regina cannot say she regrets the choices that brought her Henry, but she allows herself to acknowledge the lives she crushed in her wake. Emma's life. Regina wraps her arms tighter around herself to keep out the cold, but it makes no difference. No, she cannot offer Emma a pardon from her skeleton infested throne, but neither can she forget Emma's desire to destroy her. There appears no way out of this. No way out except to say goodbye and end this toxic influence they have over each other.

"I guess I just don't know how to love very well." Emma's husky voice tears apart the silence. Emma's words resonate inside the deepest part of Regina. Maybe they are not so different. Perhaps they are twin souls forged in loneliness and made hard by disappointment and loss. Always hurting the ones they hold dear in misguided attempts to find happiness.

"What about your girlfriend. You love her." Regina manages with the final vestiges of anger in her heart.

Emma looks Regina directly in the eye. Her gaze as fierce as it is pained.

"We broke up." Emma's throat is so raw each sound is agony and her words so faint they just about disappear. "I ended it." She clarifies, her eyes glassy and red.

The news catches Regina by surprise. Despite Emma's display of remorse, Regina doesn't actually expect this to be different from the last time Emma had shown up on her doorstep in the middle of the night. Sure that had been more of a request for a truce rather than out-and-out apology, but still it had resulted in Emma's cruel tirade soon after. She would be a fool not to keep some skepticism about her, but that doesn't stop the tiny glimmer of hope to dance in her heart.

Regina stares deep into tempestuous eyes. Searching for the lie. For the ruse.

"And why would you do that?" Regina means to sound nonchalant and angry, but her affect is soft and vulnerable.

At first Emma can't find her voice, in either the figurative or the literal sense. She prays it holds out just a little while longer, but she is soaked through to the bone and it is getting colder by the minute. Emma clears her throat and grimaces. It is only when she looks down for a moment to gather her strength that she even notices it's still drizzling light but steady. It's now or never.

"Because I love you Regina." Emma whispers despite being ready to proclaim it from the rooftops. "I have never loved anyone like this before." She admits, the creases etched in her face beg Regina to believe her. "I don't know how it happened. . . but it did." Emma's eyes remained trained on Regina as she waits anxiously for a reaction.

Regina inhales sharply as soon as Emma confesses her feelings. She hadn't been ready for that and now it's her turn to be speechless. She doesn't protest as Emma inches closer. Her steps hesitant and careful.

"I know that I have literally done it all wrong." Emma can see her own breath as she talks. It pours out of her body more steadily than her words. "I really do know that." She continues, tears rolling down her wind-burned cheeks. "I don't know how I managed to make such a mess of things, and I completely understand if you never want to see me again." Emma's voice cracks. "I just needed to tell you that I am deeply sorry for having been immature and cruel in the worst possible way. I'm sorry for hurting you. I'm sorry for making you think that I didn't care about you. I'm sorry for being so stupid." Emma's foot comes to rest on Regina's front step, but she doesn't climb it. She stays in her position of supplication at least a solid foot below Regina's intent gaze.

Regina's stare penetrates Emma's soul. The ghost of a sneer develops on Regina's full lips, which have turned a frighteningly dark shade of purple from the prolonged exposure to the unseasonably cold spring evening. Her eyes move slowly as they examine Emma for a flicker of insincerity.

What can be born of this chaos? Regina wonders. How could anything good come of this mess they have made for each other? They had both been impressively manipulative and deceitful. Is this supposed to be my happy ending? Regina could almost laugh. Maybe this is exactly what I deserve. What else could Regina really expect from someone who could love her past her façade? For who could ever fall in love with the Evil Queen? Regina's heart flutters despite her best efforts to keep it wrangled. For a malady-laden organ it was certainly feeling spritely in Emma's presence tonight.

Maybe one kiss. Regina thinks as she looks down at Emma's brooding face. Just one. It's not for Emma. It's for her. Something about tonight feels overwhelmingly final. Regina can't say goodbye to Emma and live the rest of her life wondering what those stupid, selfish and perfectly formed lips feel like. It is not as if anything can leave her pride any more wounded than it already is.

Without a word Regina's arms extend outward grabbing Emma by the lapels of her soaked leather jacket. In a single swift motion Regina pulls Emma up to eyelevel. She gives Emma's wide eyes a final exploration before leaning forward to close the small gap. Emma's lips are ice cold and trembling, but they are the warmest softest things Regina has ever felt. At first Emma doesn't move. The shock leaves her limp like a ragdoll in Regina's hands. Once her brain thaws and sends the appropriate message to the rest of her body, Emma immediately steps up on the porch and wraps her arms around Regina's waist lifting her onto her tiptoes. Emma's tongue swipes at Regina's bottom lip until she parts them slightly. Emma tightens her arms around Regina and whimpers when Regina slips her tongue inside of her waiting mouth. Emma's head spins and her heart soars. She doesn't deserve this, but she accepts it wholeheartedly.

If Regina were capable of stringing a thought together she'd question her own naïveté. One kiss could not possibly satisfy the endless need in her heart. It's as impossible as asking a person to take a single gasp and forever more refrain from breathing. She's a parched woman whose been crawling across the desert day and night for decades and is now being handed a tall cold glass of the purest water. How could she be expected to merely moisten her lips?

Regina's fingers grip Emma's collar even tighter. She needs her closer. She needs her skin. Her heat. Her love. She needs Emma on every place on her body and in every crevice of her shredded soul. Regina's bare feet inch backward of their own accord. It's only when her heel bangs into the threshold that she comes to some semblance of consciousness and wrenches her lips from Emma's mouth.

Both women are left panting, sending white billowing clouds into the air with each heave of their lungs. Regina glares at Emma as a snarl pulls on the right side of her top lip.

"If you break my heart, I'll fucking kill you." Regina warns and waits for Emma's reply. Emma tries to speak, to assure Regina that she will never again be the cause of her pain. She wants to swear that Regina can trust her, that she will spend her life proving her devotion and atoning for her mistakes, but nothing comes out but a high-pitched and strained "yes," along with the most fervent of nods.

Regina meets Emma's lips once more and throws herself off the precipice to be enveloped by lips, tongue, teeth and glorious heat. Emma kicks the front door with her foot and follows Regina into the house, without moving her lips from Regina's mouth.

"Are you sure?" Emma manages a faint whisper between kisses when Regina begins to ascend the stairs.

"No." Regina admits in a sigh. She knows bringing Emma into her bedroom is probably the last thing she should do, but she can't help herself. This feels too good. It feels effortless and right in a way that nothing else ever has. Regina is sick of always being denied what she wants, or having to push so hard to get it. In the morning they can sort out the details and unpack the emotional baggage, but tonight she doesn't want to think. She only wants to love and be loved.

Regina pulls Emma into another kiss, this one more desperate than the last. Emma gets the message loud and clear. Instead of fumbling up the grand staircase in a backward crabwalk, Emma takes some initiative. Without leaving the heat of Regina's lips, Emma moves her hands along Regina's back, over the thin material of her robe and down to her ass. Emma's hands are strong despite their trembling, and she moves with confident grace when she grips Regina's flesh to bring the woman's body up around her waist. Regina wraps her legs Emma so naturally one would think they have done this dance a thousand times before. Emma's thighs burn with each step, but the sensation of Regina's body clinging to hers is more than enough motivation to keep her going.

"Down the hall." Regina mummers softly into Emma's ear so as to not wake Henry. Emma's lungs struggle for breath and her body aches from the exertion, but the coursing adrenaline allows her to carry Regina the rest of the way to the master bedroom.

The dark wood floors creak with their burden as Emma finally reaches the appropriate door. When they push inside Emma is immediately grateful for the proximity of Regina's bed. Her back screams when she sets Regina down on the lush bedspread, and she struggles to keep her breaths steady. Regina wastes no time in pushing off Emma's soaked, and likely ruined, leather jacket.

"God, you're really wet." Regina says into Emma's mouth, her tone hushed, as she notices Emma's saturated shirt.

"You have no idea," Emma whispers in return with a wry smile.

Regina smirks, her eyebrow arched high. She pushes Emma back and a foot away from the bed so she can stand.

"We should get you into a hot shower." Regina states with concern, hoping Emma hasn't caught her death tonight. That would be a most cruel twist of fate.

"Maybe later." Emma responds hoarsely, her lips finding the exposed skin of Regina's neck. The tender flesh bruises as Emma bites down creating the most amazing suction with her mouth. Regina's eyes slam closed as she struggles to keep from screaming in delight. Regina sinks her nails into Emma's shoulder blades in retaliation. Emma's groan forces her to release Regina's neck.

"No visible marks." Regina warns far too late. Emma nods before falling to her knees in front of Regina. She finds the knot holding the satiny robe together and gives the end one strong pull. The dressing gown falls open and steals Emma's breath. Regina's hands slide over the top of Emma's head, feeling the softness of her hair and continue on to pull out the black band keeping Emma's ponytail in place. Emma shakes her head when the hair tie is out, letting her wet locks unravel around her shoulders.

Regina savors the sensation of her fingers in Emma's hair. Even drenched Emma's hair feels like spun silk. Regina had wondered for so long what this would be like and is far from disappointed. She is so engrossed by her tangled fingers she hardly notices Emma's palms passing over her feet and calves stopping only when they've reach the front of her thighs.

Emma pushes up the fabric of Regina's pale blue silk nightgown exposing the matching panties. "Fuck." Emma groans and brings her thawing lips to Regina's navel. She lets her mouth just graze Regina's skin, but even the slightest contact is exhilarating, and Emma is left aching with need.

Regina's fingers tighten in Emma's hair making her scalp throb with pain. Emma's tongue is searing hot as it circles Regina's bellybutton. Emma traces a meandering line down to the waist of Regina's underwear, stopping only to leave a sizable mark on Regina's hipbone. Regina holds her breath, but Emma goes no lower, and instead begins to move upwards leaving a trail of deep passionate kisses on Regina's torso. Emma's hands glide up and down the back Regina's legs and returning heat to her numb limbs.

When Regina can take no more teasing, she grips the hair at the back of Emma's head and pulls the woman up to a standing position before releasing her. The dominant act makes Emma all the more wanton, and she responds by yanking off Regina's robe and nightgown. Regina's eyes flash with excitement. It seems as thought this competitive nature is not going to go gently into that good night, but perhaps it can be put to more productive uses.

"Take this off." Regina demands when she struggles with Emma's drenched clothing. Emma is eager to oblige and pulls away from Regina to do as she has asked. The wet clothes clings awkwardly as Emma attempts to undress, and Regina has to help in removing the skinny jeans.

"Couldn't wear something more practical?" Regina asks as she pulls on Emma's pant leg with all her might. "They may have actually bound to your skin." She strains. Emma merely rolls her eyes in response. Clearly this wasn't my plan or I would have brought a damned raincoat, Emma thinks, but has enough sense not to give voice to her sass. Emma lays on Regina's bed to aid in her undressing, and finally her jeans come flying off and land on the floor with a sodden splat. Regina turns from where the drenched fabric has made a mark on her wall, ready deliver a snarky remark about the state of Emma's clothing, but stops short at the sight of Emma laying on her bed wearing nothing but a drenched bra and panties.

"Like what you see Madam Mayor?" Emma whispers with a smirk, deliberately biting her bottom lip for effect. Regina doesn't respond and instead makes a sort of animalistic sound that vibrates in her chest. Emma's heart jumps when Regina lunges forward landing on top of her and quickly moving the pair completely under the covers.

The sensation of being completely covered head to toe in a warm down blanket and Regina's body, is too much. Emma is sure she could die right now and be happy. This is it. This is her nirvana. Regina is happily lost in Emma's lips. Her hands slowly reach around Emma's muscular back and find the two tiny hooks holding Emma's bra in place. It takes more than one attempt, but she manages to undo the fastening and pull off the garment.

"You feel so good." Emma moans hoarsely. The sensation of Regina's naked chest pressing against hers sends a flood of heat through her body. Emma reflexively grinds against Regina's thigh to ease her pain. Regina spreads Emma's legs apart to better fit her thigh between them and finds her pelvis rocking of its own volition against Emma. "Kiss me." Emma groans again and Regina moves her mouth from Emma's delicious neck. Regina hovers over Emma for a moment. The room is dark and the blanket makes it even more impossible to see. Regina pushes the plush white comforter off her head and lets it slide backward off her shoulders. Dark brown eyes study Emma's face.

"Do you truly love me?" Regina asks unexpectedly, her voice almost as small as a child's and bearing double the vulnerability. Her eyes beg Emma not to deceive her. If this is just sex, the satisfaction of some curiosity, she can handle that but not if Emma is lying about her feelings.

Emma doesn't respond right away, and instead brings both hands up to Regina's face cradling her jaw. Emma answers with her eyes before her lips ever move. There are no words to express what she feels for Regina. This woman who changed her life the instant she laid eyes on her. This woman who raised and loved her son – taking him in when Emma's fear of failure proved too great. This woman who made her feel things so new and terrifying that she'd been only a hair away from really losing her mind.

"I'm not good with words." Emma's voice cracks. "But if you let me, I will spend the rest of my life showing you how much I love you." Emma's eyes well up with heavy tears that land in her ears when they fall.

Regina feels the sincerity of Emma's words, and pushes away the fears strangling her heart. She is no lovelorn teenager. Regina knows this will be far more complicated than just loving each other. Even putting aside the damage of the last several months, there is so much Emma has yet to learn that will likely challenge her heart, but Regina closes her eyes and falls into Emma's lips anyway. They will have at least this night, and the morning will bring all new challenges. Perhaps they may even over come them, Regina thinks with uncharacteristic optimism.

Ruby shoots out of bed, her body drenched in sweat and her mind disoriented. She doesn't recall falling asleep, and can hardly remember getting home. Ruby rips off the sheets, but the heat does not abate in the slightest. She pulls at her clothing until she is standing in her room naked, but even that doesn't help. It's as if the heat were radiating from the inside out. Ruby presses her palm against her chest to try and slow her heart, but the muscle beats like a hummingbird's wings.

Sharp pangs in her stomach cause Ruby to double over. A distant thought comes in through the static in her mind and she tries to recall what she ate that may have made her sick. It's no use. Each second makes Ruby's thought process more fractured. Her room is sweltering and growing more unbearable.

It takes concentrated effort, but Ruby manages to make it to her window. Maybe if she lets in some cold evening air she won't pass out from the heatstroke. Ruby's trembling fingers struggle with the latch. Even her eyes are refusing to focus. I'm dying. Ruby decides as the temperature in her body skyrockets. The lock clicks and Ruby pushes open rustic French windows letting in a strong rainy breeze. The blast of cold air provides a momentary respite from the crushing pain spreading through Ruby's naked body.

"I'm really dying." Ruby mutters to herself, half her body hanging out the window. She doesn't even register the possibility that someone could walk by and see her. A new and more excruciating pain squeezes the base of Ruby's spine and her back spasms sending her head flying back.

"No. . ." Ruby whispers in shock when she opens her eyes, her naked body awash in panic and the silvery light of the full moon breaking over a heavy raincloud.

The earth shifts beneath Storybrooke like a body repositioning itself after a long nap. The invisible confines holding the curse in place sprouts fractures at the edges, but most of the town continues to sleep peacefully as it has every night for the last twenty-eight years.

"Is this okay?" Emma sighs from on top of Regina. The other woman nods slowly, slightly surprised by the question she has never been asked before. Regina takes Emma's hand and moves it off her hips and up her abdomen. Emma follows Regina's lead, letting her fingertips travel lightly over Regina's ribcage leaving clusters of goose bumps in her wake.

Regina's eyes slip closed. Her body shivers beneath Emma's touch and she gasps when Emma leans down to her kiss her mouth while her fingertips reach Regina's rock hard nipple. Regina's moans find refuge in Emma's mouth, keeping the lustful sounds from the escaping the bedroom. Regina wraps her arms around Emma's neck and pushes her tongue passed Emma's lips. She writhes harder and harder with each gentle twist and pull from Emma's fingers.

Emma slides her body between Regina's legs and then sits back on her heels to quickly pull off Regina's panties and then her own. For a moment Regina almost cries at the loss, but soon a much more rigid pelvic bone replaces Emma's thigh. Emma groans into Regina's hungry mouth when she presses against Regina's wetness.

Long fingernails scrape Emma's shoulder blades, scratch her lower back and finally dig into the firm tissue of her ass. Emma cannot maintain the kiss any longer and buries her face in the nape of Regina's neck. Their bodies move as one. Emma grinds slowly and deliberately against Regina's warm wet pussy, while Regina's hands on her ass guide her rhythm. Each small sway of Emma's hips pushes her swollen clit against Regina's slick heat. The sensation is intoxicating. The rhythm grows faster making it harder for either of them to contain the moans and soft curses. Emma is grateful for losing her voice – at least most of her groans are cloaked in unintentional silence. When the sweat trickles down Emma's spine and her waxed skin feels raw from the friction, Emma's mouth begins to descend Regina's neck down to her clavicle.

The air is thick with muffled moans and gasps. Regina does away with her need for decorum and covers her own mouth with her right hand while her left hand remains happily entwined in Emma's drying locks. When Emma latches on to the space between her breasts, Regina bites down to keep from screaming in pleasure. Emma smirks in pride as she watches Regina's skin turn a lovely dark red. She only said no visible marks, Emma thinks in self-amusement as she continues ravishing Regina's chest with her mouth.

By the time Emma reaches Regina's navel, the usually dignified mayor is a whimpering mess. Emma is mildly concerned that Regina may gnaw off her own hand before she's through, but that doesn't stop her from extending her tongue and slowly running it across the entire length of Regina's slit. Regina's body quakes violently in response. Emma's sea green eyes peer up from between Regina's thighs to watch the reaction as she takes another deliberately unhurried lick of Regina's pussy as if it were a melting ice cream cone on a hot summer day. Regina shudders and grips Regina's hair tighter trying to beckon Emma closer, but Emma is intent on savoring this moment and drawing it out as long as possible.

"Please," Regina begs in as quiet and controlled a voice as she can muster. Her entire body is ready to explode and Emma's teasing is drawing her close to insanity. Regina manages to pry her eyes open and glance down at Emma who looks positively enthralled in her activity. Regina watches Emma's pink tongue dip between her folds and curl under her clit. That's all that she can handle of that, and she slams her eyes shut before moaning uncontrollably into her Egyptian cotton pillowcase. Emma moans as her lips close around Regina's hard clit sucking softly while flicking her tongue over the swollen bundle of nerves. Regina's right hand finally abandons Emma's hair. She needs both hands to keep the pillow in place as she screams. Emma's own wetness pools as she drowns in the sights and sounds of Regina climbing her way to an orgasm.

Emma grips Regina's thighs tightly trying to keep her in place. The darker woman's wetness grows until Emma can feel it spilling on her chin and all over the bed. Emma's tongue is relentless as it continues moving over Regina's clit long after she has reached her climax. The heat builds in Regina's body once more and she flings the pillow off the bed in favor of gripping Emma's hair with both hands, keeping her blonde head in place while Regina grinds against it hard and fast as she comes again into Emma's moaning mouth.

After the third earth-shattering orgasm, Regina pushes Emma's head away. Every part of her body is too sensitive to touch and she can take no more. Emma kisses the inside of Regina's twitching thighs, leaving the wetness on her chin behind. Slowly she makes her way back up Regina's body covering her in soft kisses as she goes. When Emma reaches her mouth, Regina pulls her into a deep kiss groaning with excitement at the taste of herself on Emma's tongue.

It takes several minutes for Regina's head to stop spinning and for the feeling to return to her legs, but as soon as it does, Regina flips Emma onto her stomach ready to deliver payback.

The venom stings and burns as it courses like poisonous lava through Ruby's veins. The knowledge of what comes next compels Ruby to leap from the ground floor window without bothering to put on any clothes. They wouldn't last long anyway. She doesn't need to assemble her disconnected thoughts to understand what is happening. Her body moves on its own as her muscle memory takes over her useless mind.

Run. She tells herself. Far. She thinks. Fast. She prays. Her heart races uncontrollably. The unbridled adrenaline pumps through her and she hardly feels the asphalt as she races. It's almost as if she is running so swiftly her feet don't have time to make contact with the ground.

Faster. She wills as her back throbs with pain. It's close. Ruby pushes harder, the world passing her in a blur. If she can make it to the woods on the edge of town that may be far enough away. Safe. Granny will know what happened and come find her right? That's how it had always been. Always been. Ruby repeats the words to herself as she races. Something about them sounds strange. This is not as it has always been. She knows that but can't make sense of what it means.

A rib cracks in her chest and the pain makes Ruby lose her footing sending her tumbling to the ground. She screams in agony as she tries to make herself stand. She is nowhere near far enough – she can still see the town with her sharpening vision. Crack! Another broken bone rings in her ear. Ruby digs her hands into the dirt to drag herself forward. The soil is cold and wet as Ruby claws at it, leaving a trail of sizable gouges as she crawls.

Ruby's hands shake violently with each movement, but she doesn't let herself take a break. The clearing is just ahead. All she has to do is get over the old Toll Bridge and then she might be okay.

"No!" She screams as she watches the fine hairs on her arms darken and grow longer right before her eyes. Ruby spits out blood. She has grown unaccustomed to the huge sharp teeth forming in her mouth during her long hibernation, and they tear through her flesh like a hot knife through butter.

Ruby gasps for air to calm herself but feels as if she is being split in half. It's too much. She can go no further and the world turns to black when she finally succumbs to the agonizing pain.

When Red regains consciousness the pain is gone from her body but her senses are bombarded with new lights, sounds and scents. Scents. Scents. Scents. She sniffs at the air and is almost overwhelmed with information. It's like listening to a hundred different songs at once. Red focuses her attention and picks up on a single tune. It's a familiar smell. One she knows very well, but she cannot completely separate it out. It's mixed with something else. Someone else. A low growl builds in Red's belly before she throws her head back and emits a chilling howl. Dogs bark and slumbering birds fly out of the massive oak trees behind her.

Liar. Red thinks as she bounds back toward town. Liar. She turns down Main Street, her dark grey fur flowing in the wind as she sprints so much faster than she had in her pervious form. Liar. Red follows Emma's scent like a lighted neon path. Liar. Red growls setting her sights on the mayoral mansion before letting her back legs spring like loaded coils.

A thin layer of sweat forms over Emma's contracting back muscles. The headboard of Regina's bed is as flimsy as construction paper under Emma's iron grip. Regina certainly knows how to exact revenge, Emma thinks as she struggles to keep her orgasm at bay.

"Fuck!" Emma cries, her voice still gravelly when it makes any sound at all.

"Payback." Regina reminds her with silky words along the shell of her ear. Regina's tongue is warm when it runs down the back of Emma's neck. Emma's back arches reflexively as her center pushes against the hand Regina has placed between her legs.

"Regina, please." Emma begs hoarsely. Regina keeps bringing her to the edge and then stopping. There is only so much Emma can take, and they reached that limit several minutes ago.

A sly smirk plays on Regina's lips. She is satisfied that Emma has learned her lesson and that she has regained her dominance in the process. Regina exaggerates a breathy moan as her mouth floats just above Emma's warm skin. She follows the line of Emma's spine until she reaches the point just above Emma's ass. Emma is writhing against the hand Regina refuses to move. Her need is painful and just a little friction will finally grant her blissful release.

The heat of Regina's tongue and the pressure of her mouth at the base of Emma's spine sends Emma's eyes rolling in the back of her head and the wetness pouring from her body. She imagines the same sensation on her pussy and just the thought is almost enough to set off Emma's climax. Regina alternates between soft kisses and lustful bites until she is back at Emma's ear.

"You only needed to ask nicely dear." Regina croons as her fingers spring to life and circle Emma's clit.

"Shit!" Emma groans but hardly makes a noise. Regina watches Emma's face as her orgasm builds. It's the most gorgeous sight Regina has ever seen and starts a new fire roaring in her belly. Regina is hardly moving at all while Emma bucks against the mattress and her hand. "Please don't stop!" Emma begs in terror that Regina will pull away. Regina assures Emma that the teasing over by kissing her softly.

"I love you Emma." Regina whispers much to her own surprise, and it sends Emma flying over the edge. Emma releases the headboard and moves quickly to crawl on top of Regina while the rest of her body shakes with the force of her climax. Regina wraps both arms around Emma's back, holding her while she grinds against Regina's rigid thigh.

"I love you." Emma cries as she comes hard. Emma has never before understood people who cry during sex. She's always seen sex as fun, exciting and maybe sometimes a little humorous but never sad. And yet her eyes fill with tears as she holds on to Regina for dear life, her body combusting from pleasure and emotion. She finally understands what it is like to be overcome by a moment so pure that it moves one to tears.

Emma is not alone. Regina finds herself equally overwhelmed as she cries into Emma's neck. Both women grip each other tighter and let the sentiment wash over them like a waterfall both cleansing and destructive.

They are so absorbed in each other neither hears the front door blast open.

Red crashes through the front door of the mayoral mansion. Even if it hadn't been left open a crack, The Wolf would have happily leapt through the window. If Red could organize her mind she would have elected to do some damage to the dollhouse built on lies, but her thoughts are choppy and fragmented. Red is all instinct and deadly rage, and Ruby lost the wheel the moment she blacked out.

Another long sniff with her nose stuck up in the air and Red knows exactly where to go. She makes it up the stairs in three purposeful bounds, leaving deep claw marks in Regina's beautifully polished wood floors.

Red crashes through the hallway like a careening sledgehammer. For a moment Emma assumes it's lightning landing near by with a thunderous fanfare, but by the time they realize it's not the weather, Regina's door is swinging open and a dark figure is heaving in the doorway.

"Oh my god!" Emma cries, but emits no sound. She quickly shuffles off of Regina and twists her body to shield her from the threat she has yet to identify. Emma's eyes scan the room to where her clothes are laying in a pile. Fuck, no gun! Emma thinks as she tries to find something else she can use to protect them from the wild animal. The room is too dark and time is moving too fast for her to think.

Complete understanding barrels into Regina like a freight train. There will be more. Regina thinks as her brain goes into overdrive. She has to get Emma and Henry to safety, but first they have to get passed the hulking beast growling just a few feet away.

Regina scurries to her feet, wrapping her right arm around Emma from behind and twisting her hand in a way Emma finds most peculiar.

"What are you doing?!" Emma whispers while her large eyes remain on the creature panting and growling.

"Fuck!" Regina curses under her breath hoping Red didn't notice that she tried to use her powers and failed. It was worth a try, Regina thinks as panic begins to seize her chest. If the curse has broken then maybe her powers will reappear, but Regina knows better than that. She knows that this is a land without magic.

"Do you have a gun?" Emma whispers trying not to make any sudden movements. She doesn't know why the animal is waiting to rip out her throat, or even how the fuck it got in the house. In all her time as sheriff, Emma had never had a call about wild dogs or wolves or coyotes and she can't understand why one would be in Regina's bedroom in the middle of the night. She has never even seen an animal this huge in her life.

"Don't speak." Regina warns quietly in Emma's ear. "No matter what I say or do, don't talk and don't move. This isn't the time for questions. I will explain everything later I promise." Regina whispers hurriedly. Emma doesn't understand anything about what is happening now, but she tries to trust Regina who appears rather sure of the situation. Emma can't imagine that this is a common scenario in the Mills household, but she does her best to remain quiet and still as she feels Regina's naked chest pull away from her perspiring back.

"It's not what it looks like." Regina says slowly and softly in Red's direction, looking just below The Wolf's glowing yellow eyes as she moves away from Emma. The creature growls and snaps at the air in response. Emma's hand reaches out instinctively to pull Regina back and The Wolf takes a leap forward.

"I told you not to move!" Regina's head whips to the side staring at Emma whose gone ghostly white. Emma retracts her hand but can't wrap her head around what the fuck is going on and how on earth Regina seems to understand. Regina opens her eyes wide as if that were suddenly going to make Emma a mind reader.

Red snaps at the air again and Regina returns her attentions to The Wolf. She says a silent prayer that Emma will just listen to her for once instead of questioning everything and springing to action without knowing the full story. God she's so like her parents.

"I know it's hard to think, but please try." Regina starts again. She walks on her knees toward the ferocious beast with her hands held out in front of her, and for the life of her Emma can't figure out what Regina is doing. Maybe she's lost her shit, Emma concludes logically. Why else would a naked woman be practically crawling naked toward a wild animal that seems pretty intent on eating her for dinner.

"This is not you." Regina says in a soft voice and The Wolf appears to breathe a little more evenly.

This is fucking working! Emma looks on in astonishment. Regina seems to be talking the thing off a ledge. Maybe she's like Dr. Doolittle. Is that a thing? Emma wonders as she tries to steady her own thumping heartbeat.

"This will pass when the moon changes and you don't want to do something you will regret." Regina's voice is as gentle as a lullaby as she inches forward. She keeps her hands in front of her and her palms open to show Red she is not a threat.

"Mom? What's going on? I heard a noise." Henry asks as he rubs the sleep out of his eyes. The Wolf's head rears back bearing her terrible fangs at a petrified Henry.

"Ruby! No!" Regina screams struggling to get off the bed and on her feet. The bedspread is wrapped around her ankles and she can't get free fast enough.

"Ruby?!" Emma echoes in horrified confusion. The scream brings Red's attention to her and away from Henry. Red's huge grey head cocks to the side as if trying to understand, but there is too much movement and noise for her to concentrate.

"Get back!" Regina screams at Emma from her position on the end of the bed. Red glares at Regina now. Regina is the object of her hatred, and she will not allow herself to be distracted from her target a moment longer. Emma watches the scene in slow motion. The Wolf rears up shifting her weight to her hind legs before preparing to pounce on Regina. It takes less than a fraction of a second for Emma to act. In a flash she is pulling Regina up and back on to the bed. Regina lands on her chest with a bounce, but she turns quickly enough to see The Wolf's long body stretched out in the air. Her lethal claws extending and pointing to where Regina had been just a moment ago. But instead of finding Regina's neck, Red's strike finds Emma's torso. The Wolf lands on top of Emma's chest with a crack and Emma's eyes slip closed before her head hits the bed.

"Emma!" Regina emits a blood-curdling scream and uses her shoulder to knock The Wolf off balance.

Emma's limp bloody body beneath her paws is such a confusing sight that Ruby manages to coerce herself away. Run! Far! Far! Far! Don't stop! She commands her legs and they decide to abide her demands.

"Mom!" Henry shrieks when the wolf flies passed him allowing him to see what is happening on the bed. "Mom!" He screams as he rushes to Emma's shredded body.

Regina can't think. She is wracked with grief and disbelief. All she can do is hold on to Emma's lifeless body and shout her agony at the top of her lungs.

"Mom!" Henry screams over and over until Regina snaps out of it. Her hand rushes to Emma's neck to feel for a pulse. Nothing.

"Henry, get me that shirt!" Regina screams. Henry looks at the pile where his mother is pointing. He leaps to the corner of the room and searches through the pile before recovering Emma's damp shirt. Regina pulls it from his hands and begins to fashion a tourniquet around the gaping wound in Emma's chest. "A belt, quickly!" She shouts and Henry's legs scurry to her closet almost immediately reappearing with an elegant black leather strap. He throws it in Regina's direction before running to her side. He watches his mother work fast to tie the belt tightly around Emma's midsection.

When Emma is bandaged to keep her from bleeding out completely, Regina reaches for her robe hanging haphazardly off the side of the bed. She covers her naked body, blood staining everything she touches.

There will be others. Regina reminds herself in abject horror. She looks down at her son. His huge brown eyes shine with terror. "Henry, you are going to hear a lot of things about me. I just need you to know that I love you, and although it may not seem like it, I have tried my very best to do right by you. I've made a lot of mistakes son, but you are my everything." Regina can't stop the sobbing that breaks loose from her body. She doesn't want to scare Henry, but this may be her only chance to speak to him before the mob arrives. "I'm sorry I lied to you." Regina brings him into a tight embrace. "I didn't know how to explain so that you wouldn't hate me." She confesses while holding him close. When she lets him go she can tell her son doesn't understand. Sometimes he is so smart that Regina forgets he is just a little boy. "The fairytales, they're true my little prince." Regina uses a moniker she hasn't spoken in years and finally Henry's eyes go wide with understanding.

"Mom, I love you!" Henry crashes into Regina and wraps his arms so tightly around her its hard to breathe. "I'm sorry I said you were evil. I'm sorry I said I hated you!" He cries. Seeing his mother working so hard to save his birth mother, and facing the prospect of the angry townspeople coming to take her away, puts everything in perspective. Henry doesn't want to lose either one of his moms and now it seems like he might lose both.

"I love you too Henry." Regina responds with tears running down her face speckled with blood. "Listen, I need you to be safe. Go and hide under your bed. Do you understand? Don't come out until you hear Miss Blanchard come for you. No one else, okay?" Regina's voice shakes as she speaks.

"No! I'm not leaving you! Either one of you!" Henry screams running out of Regina's arms and crawling to Emma's side. Regina can hear the voices outside. They don't have much time left.

"Henry, please I need you safe!" Regina begs joining her son and cradling him and Emma in her arms. She says the words knowing full well Henry will not budge. She grips them tighter trying to protect them both with her body as the horde marches nosily up the stairs.

"Regina!" Snow White's voice is the first she hears in the murmuring crowd. Regina's head swings around, but her back remains toward the door.

"Help them!" Regina cries holding Emma and Henry close to her chest.

"What happened?!" She asks dropping the wooden object she has in her hand and running toward them. They had seen something run passed them on their way to Regina's house. Granny swore it was Red and gave chase on foot. Snow dispatched a small group to go with her, but the rest were marching to Regina's house for answers. What they encountered was a chilling scene. The mansion's door was hanging open and bloody paw prints lead from the stairs to the street. Snow feared it was exactly the nightmare unfolding before her eyes. "Emma!" She screams when she can see it is indeed her daughter strewn on the bed and covered in a bloody garment.

"Get Whale!" Regina screams in return, and in a flash the doctor is there responding to his Storybrooke name out of habit. Jiminy and Grumpy hold the group back behind the doorway to Regina's bedroom after Charming runs to join the others surrounding Emma.

"Get back!" Victor commands. Regina picks up a balling Henry and holds him close despite the blood on her body. She gives the doctor some space to examine Emma and the Charmings follow her lead but only give up an inch. His face is grim as he feels her wrist and then her neck.

"What is it?!" Snow screams impatiently.

Victor turns to them slowly. "I'm sorry—" is all Regina hears before the floor comes rushing to her face and everyone is gone.

Four months later. . .

The town is quiet as it has been for the last one hundred days or so.

"How are you doing?" Melanie asks Regina. The mayor wasn't exactly a colorful dresser before, but it seems like now all she wears is black or dark grey. Regina swings her chair away from the window to regard her assistant.

"You don't have to be here you know." Regina says without a smile. There is no more Storybrooke. Not really. Not since the curse broke. There is no reason for Regina to be here either – sitting in the mayoral office and propagating the sham everyone knows is fake.

"I know. . ." She admits bashfully. "I just don't really have anywhere else to be." The curse may be broken, but they still have no idea how to get back to their old world. Not that Melanie is in a rush to be just a farmer's daughter again with no prospect for changing her station.

"Well I'm going. Today is the day." Regina explains as if Melanie didn't know what today was. No one in town has talked about anything other than Emma and the tragedy. 'Oh what a tragedy,' was now the common phrase that followed any mention of Emma Swan, Henry or the Charmings. She hated Emma Swan more than anyone, but still she hadn't wished her harm. Not any permanent harm anyway. Even Regina was the unlikely benefactor of the group consensus that what happened the night the curse broke was a terrible thing for anyone to experience – after the scandal of Emma and Regina's love affair died down that is. 'How ironic,' and 'I guess you'll never know who your True Love will be," are the common phrases attached to that phenomenon.

In all the chaos everyone had forgotten to hate Regina and burn her at the stake. By the time most folks processed the curse and its effects, the widespread rage had quelled. Most people, like Melanie and her family, were much happier and more comfortable in Storybrooke than they had ever been in the Enchanted Forest. There was still anger about being ripped away without any choice in the matter, but few were clamoring to go back to life without indoor plumbing, penicillin and cable TV.

"Will you be in tomorrow?" Melanie immediately regrets the insensitive question.

"I don't believe so." Regina answers as she stands from her desk. Melanie nods and excuses herself wishing she knew the right thing to say to comfort Regina.

The late summer morning warms Regina's skin. She thinks about Emma as she does just about every waking moment, and most of her sleeping ones too. She wonders about the missing pages of Henry's book. She has never brought herself to ask him what his storybook depicts in its finale act, but she thinks perhaps Emma was The Savior come to vanquish her, but it was a Phoenix's death. It allowed Regina to be re-born in the ashes of the Evil Queen, whose heart was twisted and mangled with hate and a never-ending need for revenge on the legions that had wronged her. In the place of that woman now stood a new person capable of love and compassion.

"Regina!" A distant voice calls sending chills down Regina's spine and causing her to stop in her tracks. "Wait!" She hears again and her stomach turns but she does not. "Please!" She hears anguish break the speaker's voice and she pivots her shoulders toward the sound.

"Not today." Regina warns when the woman stops short just before reaching her side.

"Please Regina, I just want to say how sorry I am." Red begs, tears already streaking her cheeks.

"It's not me you have to apologize to." Regina says coldly turning to walk to her car.

"You have to understand that I wasn't myself. That I couldn't control It." Red cries as she walks just behind Regina. Regina knows she's right of course, it's amazing enough that she stopped The Wolf at all and didn't kill her and Henry. For that she is grateful, but the pain is too fresh to say so.

"What do you want from me?" Regina snaps, her hand on the car door.

"Let me come today." Red's voice strains with the weight of her emotion. Regina considers it for a moment. She knows Emma would want her there. Emma forgives so easily. "Please," Red begs again. In the smallest part of her heart Regina knows she should say yes, but the rest of her is still so angry.

"Fine." Regina agrees before she can talk herself out of it. Red's face immediately lights up and she cries even harder than before.

"Thank you Regina, thank you!" Red yells in gratitude, but she knows better than to try and hug Regina, so instead she does a sort of awkward bow.

"Get in." Regina demands as she gets behind the steering wheel.

"What?" Red asks clearly having misheard Regina.

"Just get in. I'm going there now. Hurry up or we will be late." Regina commands turning the engine. Ugh, this car is awful, she thinks when the Volkswagen finally roars to life after the third attempt.

"Oh. . . um. . . really? O-okay." Red stutters and slowly gets in the car.

It's a short ride and when the duo descends from the car the crowd gasps in shock. Regina doesn't even register the faces. She could not possible care less what anyone thinks, and that goes double today. Red trails behind Regina as they make their way through the parting mass. Concerned onlookers whisper words of support as Regina passes. They look at Red with mixed expressions, and she manages to ignore the murmuring and whispers as she goes.

"Your Majesty. . . uh I mean Mayor – or should I – I don't know what to call you." The young man admits with his gaze falling to the ground.

"Call me whatever you want," Regina assures the boy with a squeeze to his arm. "Where is Snow?" She asks scanning the large empty room.

"Over there, Ma'am." He answers breathing a sigh of relief. Regina follows where he indicates and nods her thanks.

"Regina," Snow calls when she sees her approach.

"Snow," Regina responds embracing her once enemy and now comrade in suffering.

"Red, I'm so glad you're here." She says taking her longtime friend in her arms. "I told you she wouldn't refuse you." She whispers in her Red's ear. Red can't respond or she will burst out crying. She knows that is not what anyone needs right now.

"Where is Charming?" Regina asks. The hall is empty but for the three of them, and she expects he would be here by now.

"He's having a hard time." Snow admits tearfully. "He's in the bathroom." She continues fraught with worry. Her husband hasn't stopped vomiting since last night and it's been days since he last slept.

"It's hard on us all." Regina says with a squeeze to Snow's hand. She nods in agreement and swallows down the knot in her throat.

"Ready?" The same young man that greeted Regina and Red at the entrance appears in front of them.

"Yes we're just waiting for—"

"I'm here!" Charming yells cutting off Regina as he jogs to meet the group. He reaches out his hand to both Red and Regina and now there is no more room for words. The anxiety passes between them like an electrical current through water.

"Ok, right this way." The young man turns on his heels and walks through two big swinging doors. Regina and Snow exchange fearful looks before proceeding.

It's a long walk down a cavernous corridor until they stop at a heavy glass door at the end of the hall.

"Please wash your hands." The young man leads them to a sink and special orange soap. Regina's hands shake violently under the freezing cold stream, but she manages to complete the task and move aside so the others have their turn. Regina takes deep breaths to keep it together. She thinks of Henry and implores herself to be strong for him.

When everyone is clean, the young man slides open the glass door.

Several people in white coats obstruct their view.

"Ready?" Victor asks as he strides into the room.

The group nods, but no one can find a voice to speak with.

"No matter what happens, don't get in the way." He warns, reminding them of their promise before he agreed to let them be here for this. He gives them a curt nod before asking the attending physicians a battery of questions. He checks the machines connected to Emma, and tests the defibrillator. Snow gasps when she sees Emma's arms exposed by the turned down sheet. Charming puts his arm around her and whispers something in her ear. Regina wishes she had someone to lean on to get through this moment. What if it doesn't work? Regina fears. What if we should leave her on a little longer? She panics, but is afraid to stop the process. She recalls what she knows is true. Everyday Emma is comatose and breathing through a ventilator, is another strike against her ever being able to breathe on her own. It's time. She tells herself. Her wounds have healed and it's now or never. Either she lives or she dies, but it happens today. Regina takes more deep breaths and looks around the room. She has spent every night in this room since the curse broke. She will be glad never to see it, or another hospital, ever again.

"Alright. Remove the Propofol completely." Victor commands, and a nurse takes the IV from Emma's arm. Regina winces. She hates watching Emma be poked and prodded as she lays there helpless. "Okay, everyone stand over there please unless I call the code." Victor instructs and the sea of white coats and green scrubs moves to the foot of the bed leaving Emma in full view of the trembling crowd in the corner.

Regina's eyes scan Emma for changes. Her skin is pale and her face more gaunt than before, but she has been that way for months. Regina finds herself clinging to Snow's arm as they wait. Dr. Frankenstein stares at his watches as he watches Emma's stats on a large monitor. Everyone watches the numbers jump and dip, but Emma remains motionless.

The seconds turn to minutes and Regina starts to fear the worse. She should be awake by now. Something starts to beep loudly and a nurse springs forward, but Victor raises his hand signaling her to stay put. He places his hand under the plastic tube in Emma's mouth. Regina blinks and then digs her nails into Snow's arm – Emma's foot is twitching.

"Emma!" Snow whispers when she hears her make a gurgling sound, her fingers twitching to life.

Regina holds her chest. It's been months since she's seen Emma move at all and the sight is terrifying and overwhelming.

The gurgles turn to strangled coughs, and finally the long plastic tube that's been breathing for Emma comes out. The doctors and nurses spring into action and move over Emma like half a dozen worker bees. Charming, the tallest of them, cranes his head but can't see what's happening.

It takes several minutes but finally the white coats clear again and leave the room carrying trays and tubing. The nurses cart away machines while others come in with new ones.

"Alright. Come on." Victor calls looking in Regina's direction. The foursome moves forward slowly. "She can hear you. She just can't respond yet." He says moving out of the way. Red hangs back when they reach Emma's bed. She wants to be here, but she's afraid to cause Emma any distress when she wakes up.

"Will she remember anything?" Regina asks taking Emma's right hand while Snow and Charming stand on their daughter's left side.

"Impossible to know for sure until she actually wakes up." He answers truthfully. "It may come back slowly over time." He adds starting to take notes in her chart. "Well go ahead. Talk to her." He says taking a couple of steps back.

"Emma?" Snow asks quietly. "Emma honey, we're all here for you. I know this might be confusing, but can you try and wake up?" She continues, eyes brimming with tears. "Henry is waiting for you at Granny's. He's got a cheeseburger and fries with your name on it." Snow's voice cracks at the end.

"Emma, we love you very much." Charming adds pushing the hair away from Emma's forehead.

Regina's heart sinks. There is no reaction. Victor warned them this could happen, that she would be alive but not truly back with them. It was a story Regina knows all too well.

"You try." Snow verbally nudges Regina when their attempts prove fruitless.

"Emma," Regina whispers after a beat. Nothing. The moments tick by as they watch Emma lay motionless in her hospital bed. They had all been talking to her almost constantly for months, but now that it was so important none of them knew what to say. A strange sort of frustration fills Regina until she leans over just inches from Emma's face. "Miss Swan!" Regina yells in her sharp mayoral tone. Emma stirs in response and the room explodes in tears and nervous laughter. "Miss Swan," Regina continues, "wake up, the fine citizens of Storybrooke are not paying you to sleep on the job!" Regina's voice booms and for a moment everyone wonders if perhaps she's serious.

Emma stirs again and this time mumbles something incomprehensible. Snow leans in while everyone else watches with bated breath.

"What did she say?" Victor asks with a pen in hand ready to note it in Emma's chart.

Snow opens her mouth to repeat her daughter's first words after being in a medically induced comma for several months, but all she can do is explode in laughter.

"Snow, for god's sake what did she say?" Regina asks in annoyance.

"She said, and I quote: 'Fuck off Regina.'" Snow bursts into another fit of uncontrollable laughter, letting the fear and tension finally ease from her shoulders. Her daughter is still alive. She's still herself.

"I think she's going to be just fine." Victor offers with a smile.

"Well that's lovely, I'll have it engraved on a pillow." Regina says suppressing her own chuckle. It felt good to feel some relief. For the last four months she'd been walking on eggshells and preparing for the worst.

"Regina," Emma whispers weakly and the room goes silent.

"Yes, I'm here." Regina responds covering Emma's hands with both of her own. Emma struggles to open her eyes and Victor runs to turn off the lights to make it easier on her corneas. The darkness helps, but Emma can only open her eyes a sliver. Even then they only stay open for a moment and Emma seems to have tenuous control over their movements.

"There's a wolf. . . Henry. . . Careful," Emma warns as her eyes slip closed and her blood pressure soars. Red turns to run out in the hall and cry, but is stopped by Victor's quick hand.

"You're safe Emma, we're all safe. It's over now." Regina assures her with tears falling steadily down her face. She can't believe she's talking to Emma again. As much as she had wished for this moment, and as many bargains with higher powers she had made, Regina feared it wouldn't ever happen.

Emma nods in tacit understanding and her pulse begins to slow again.

"She's going to need a lot of rest. Now you all know how it works. One person at a time, and you have to keep calm around her." Victor reminds them as if they didn't know the rules by heart.

"You stay." Snow says looking at Regina, her words choked up with emotion. "We will be back with Henry." She gives Emma another squeeze before heading for the door.

"Tell her I'm sorry," Red blurts out in between sobs.

"Tell her yourself." Regina responds, giving Red the signal that it will be okay for her to return. Red nods and leaves the room along with the Charmings.

"You really scared me." Regina admits to a semi-slumbering Emma when they are alone. "I love you." She continues kissing Emma's lips lightly before running her thumb across Emma's cheek.

"I love you Regina." Emma responds groggily before falling into a deep sleep.

A/N: So the reason this story took me so long to write was because in my original plan Emma dose not survive the wolf attack. About halfway through, the story started to change and Emma began to see the error of her ways, even though I intended for her to be much more callus about her actions. After that I just couldn't see her dying without being able to redeem herself, and it took several plot changes for this ending to make sense to me. In my mind Emma and Regina have a long way to go to repair the damage and actually build a healthy relationship, but I think they are on their way. I very much separate The Wolf's actions and Red/Ruby's desires, so in time she will be able to heal her relationship with Emma as well. This story doesn't go into that, and maybe one day I will write an epilogue or a very short sequel to have a look at how they mend the wounds inflicted by all parties. What I was really interested in exploring here are the problems created when someone loves a person who is right for them, but collides unexpectedly with another she Loves who is (seemingly) wrong for her. It's about the occasional conflict between commitment and the heart, and how someone can make all the worst choices even when she tries not to hurt the ones she loves.

I know this story hasn't been for everyone, and I thank you for reading and giving it a chance. Please let me know what you think!

Much love and I'll see you next time ;)