A/N: A quick A/U piece. This takes place after QoH - but loosely so. Probably a three-parter.

Mild language and SQ sexual situations here-in.

Hope you enjoy.

Her beautiful little boy is sixteen years old today.

Almost a man.

Curled up on the couch in the incredibly small loft that she owns in the heart of Boston, she allows her mind to wander, allows herself to wonder what he looks like. She smiles as she imagines him to be tall and handsome, a lop-sided slightly devilish grin perfectly complimenting his constantly messy brown hair. If she really tries, she can hear his laughter, certainly deeper in sound than it'd been the last time she'd heard it, but in her mind, still youthful and innocent.

Still Henry Mills.

Or is it Swan now?

Yes, probably it probably is Swan now, she thinks to herself. The pain she feels at this is muted after so many years, but it's still there nonetheless.

It still hurts to have lost her son. To have left him behind.

It still rips at her soul to have gone almost five years without feeling his arms around her or without running her fingers through his hair.

Five years without hearing him call her "mom".

She wonders if he's thinking of her today.

Probably not.

It's been five years since she'd last seen him. Five years since she'd accepted her punishment and walked away from him.

Walked away from them.

Most of the time, she's able to keep from dwelling on the loved ones (their number is small, but still more than one) that she'd left behind. Of course, living here in this loft doesn't help a bit. It's a constant reminder – an omnipresent jabbed thumb into the unhealed wound that is her solitude – of them.

She knows that never should have convinced the landlord to sell her this building. And even once she had, she should have kept things strictly professional. She should have simply renovated the building and put it back on the market. She certainly never should have moved into it herself. But once the decision to do so had been made, she absolutely never should have chosen to live in this particular unit, one far smaller than the one reserved for owners.

But she had moved in to this little unit, and though she knows damned good and well that she should have left this loft a long time ago, she still hasn't.

She supposes that she's not going anywhere any time soon.

It's almost funny, this weird little situation that she of all people is in. If her neighbors (tenants) knew who she really was…well they'd think her crazy. And even if they did believe, they'd just see her as everyone from her own world had.

As the monster she really is.

So they don't know. They'll never know.

Better for everyone including herself.

To the world outside of Storybrooke, Maine, she's not the Evil Queen. Here, she's Gina Mills. She probably should have altered her name more in order to evade the people finding abilities of Miss Swan, but she'd compensated by throwing up several identification roadblocks. On paper, Gina Mills is in her late forties with blonde hair and green eyes (when someone – and that someone is almost always a bartender trying to be flirty and conversational - asks about her hair and eyes when they see her license, she simply laughs and calls those things a youthful stage that she has since grown out of). Gina is also technically based out of New York instead of Boston, and if you were to dig a little bit deeper (as a stubborn Emma is wont to do), it would appear as though Mrs. Mills has been married a couple times over. The first ended in death, the second divorce.

All of which equates to a somewhat clever new personality that she'd created with the help of a greasy wanna-be thug named Judo who had been all too happy to assist her thanks to her willingness to keep handing him hundred dollars bills all while also allowing him to look – but no, never touch – at her generous cleavage. He's a useful boy to have around. A Sydney without the simpering and creepy obsessional tendencies.

The people in the building she owns know her as the quiet – though occasionally forceful about keeping things peaceful, controlled and orderly - woman who mostly keeps to herself unless she's absolutely forced to do otherwise. She's no trouble, and no concern. Aside from brief interludes in the hallway from time to time, no one pays her any attention, and perhaps that's best for everyone.

Most days, she's okay with this life. It's better than death (she doesn't fear the actual act of dying, she's afraid of what's to come afterwards), and really, when she allows herself to actually self-reflect (there's been a good amount of time for that), she thinks that perhaps this was the most suiting punishment of all.

The silence and loss of having been kicked out of Storybrooke.

Exiled, Snow had called it.

It's truly poetic in a devastating manner.

She pours herself a tumbler of scotch, ignoring the early time showing on the simple circular clock on the wall. Yes, it's only around noon, and therefore way too early to actually be drinking, but today of all days; she can allow this bit of vice. She remains a more sophisticated woman than this – she still prefers the deep flavors of red wine to the harshness of hard liquor – but right now, her emotions are as turbulent as the ocean after an especially volatile storm.

Thankfully, even without a magic bracelet upon her wrist, ever since she'd left Storybrooke, magic has been beyond her grasp.

But that was part of why they'd done what they'd done.

Protection for them and punishment for her.

That'd they been able to wipe away her memory, pretend as though she'd never existed, well that'd just been an added bonus.

She hopes it'd worked. She hopes Henry is safe and happy.

Try as she might, though she can't hope the same for many of the others back in that little town that she'd created practically with her bare hands. All of those simple fools and useful idiots had been far too happy to cast judgment on her. They'd all been a bit too gleeful about stripping away what little family she'd had left. And they'd done so with the smug righteousness of "good" at their backs.

All of them except for her.

Emma had fought for her.

For all the good it'd done.

Five years earlier.

She finds it vaguely interesting that they would choose the middle of town to conduct this little trial of theirs. It's so old world, so right out of a black and white/good and evil style storybook. That they don't seem to understand just how ridiculously ironic it is to try the Evil Queen for her crimes in the heart of the very city that she'd so painstakingly built and nurtured, well that's just sad.

"This is wrong," Emma declares, her long blonde hand whipping around in the cold Maine air. Strands of it blow into her reddened eyes, and she brushes them away almost violently. She's angry, practically seething, and if this were a different situation, Regina's fairly certain that she'd find the blonde woman absurdly attractive right now. So much so that if they weren't standing in front of much of this damned town, well maybe they'd be doing something else entirely.

Something wonderful.

This is exactly the opposite of that.

"It's our way, Emma," James tells his furious daughter, his voice almost absurdly soft. Regina thinks that she can hear just a hint of sorrow in his tone. She supposes that maybe the time she and Charming had spent together trying to bring Emma and Snow home from the old world had made something of a difference in the way he sees her. No longer just as the Evil Queen.

As something more, maybe. Something human.

It matters, she thinks, just not enough to stop this.

"We're not in your world," Emma reminds him. She's standing between the former queen and the crowd and her parents, an stretched arm out as if to try to protect the brunette from anyone who might be stupid enough to charge forward. Her service pistol is in her hand, and Regina finds herself smiling when the moon cooperates enough to gleam almost majestically off of the badge at her hip.

"No, we're not," a voice in the back of the crowd calls out. "Because of her."

"Snow was almost killed because of her," another person yells.

"You could have died," Ruby reminds her, but there's an odd look like in her eyes, like she'd rather be anywhere but here. Like maybe she thinks that one day this might be she who finds herself having to answer to an angry crowd.

"But we didn't. Regina saved us," Emma retorts as she spins around, her eyes blazing with fury. "My mother and I wouldn't be here at all if not for her."

"Your lives never would have been in danger if not for her," James reminds her. He's standing with Snow, at the head of the crowd, almost as though he's holding some kind of court. It's clear to everyone that the Charmings have assumed their crowns again. If not legally or realistically, in terms of respect at least.

Emma shakes her head, hair again whipping around. "No. This is wrong." It's all she has available to her, these simple words. They're woefully inadequate and she knows it. She turns her body slightly, casting furious and pained green eyes back at the woman standing behind her.

It's almost like she's asking Regina to do something.

She's not. Not really.

But there's a kind of desperation to her gaze. A silent plea.

Like she's begging Regina to tell her that this isn't really happening.

But it is, and so Regina just smiles slightly. The expression doesn't meet her dark eyes, though. How could it? She knows how this is about to go down. Has always known. The idea that she could have escaped punishment for her many crimes has always been more than a little bit absurd even to her. And now, it all makes so much more sense. Her judgment had simply been delayed thanks to Snow and Emma's absence. Delayed, not forgotten.

Which means that now that they're back, the people of this damned town want their king and queen to sentence the woman responsible for all of their pain.

Never mind that most of their pain is actually imagined or perceived through the lens of idealism and storybook optimism. Never mind that Storybrooke has offered many of these people a better life than they ever could have had in a world run by monarchs – benevolent or otherwise.

In their minds, they've been separated from their perfect happy endings.

Never mind that even back in the old world, perfect happy endings had been as rare as pixie dust. Given only to a precious few, cherished by even fewer.

She is their hated enemy, their perfect almost cookie cutter villain. That Rumplestiltskin has played a part in all of this is lost on them. He's the master painter who doesn't sign his finished portraits, just patiently waits around to collect the money once the masterpiece has finally sold.

In this case, the masterpiece was the curse, and it sold when Emma broke it. She had merely been the paintbrush used to throw colors upon the canvas.

She has no more value to him now, and no one – aside from Emma and perhaps Snow and Charming if they're bright enough to think about it - realizes that it was he that commissioned the original portrait. She could tell everyone, scream it aloud, but it wouldn't change her fate a bit and so she holds her tongue.

Perhaps there will come a time for them to settle their books. Perhaps not.

This is about her right now, though, not him. They want her blood, not his.

She won't defend herself from these righteously angry people. She's guilty of the many crimes that they've accused her of (and many more that they don't know about and never will), and therefore sees no value in pretending otherwise.

She won't throw herself at their mercy, either, though. They're guilty of crimes, too, and really, this is all just a grand bit of theatre and she has no interest in playing along so that they can justify their fury and vengeance. She wants them to know what they're about to do, wants them to feel the burden of their actions as she has always felt the burden of hers.

She wants them to wake up in the middle of the night thinking about what they've done. She wants them to wonder if they should have done something different.

It only seems fair. It only seems right.

Emma shakes her head again. "I won't let you kill her," she states, her voice shakier than her determination. Regina has no doubt that this woman will stand in front of her no matter what. It fills her with something warm and thick.

Something that feels a lot like love.

She rather wishes she'd never met Emma Swan.

And yet she knows damned well that she'll be thankful every day for the rest of her life (however short or long it be) that she had.

"Emma," she whispers, but she has no idea what she'll say next.

"No," the blonde answers. "This isn't going to happen like this."

"Then maybe there's another way," Snow says softly. Her eyes connect with Regina's and for a moment, history plays out in front of them as though it's on a big screen. And for once, there's no anger present. Just sadness and pain.

"What other way?" Regina asks, and it's the first thing she's said (beyond Emma's name) since she was dragged out into the street by Whale and Grumpy and a host of other disgruntled and enraged storybook characters. She glances down at the silver bracelet that she's wearing (courtesy of the fairies who are trying to reclaim their own place in the hierarchy of this town), and smiles grimly as it shimmers and lightly glows with magical energy.

The bracelet, which had been snapped onto her wrist before she'd realized what had been happening (she'd been napping on her couch when they'd stormed her house) is made from enchanted metal forged by the small bits of pixie dust that had been found in the corners of the mine. It does but one thing – it dampens and controls her magical abilities. Instead of allowing her to throw the magic outwards, it forces her to constantly recirculate the energy within herself. Slightly painful to the wearer of the bracelet, but terribly effective in accomplishing it's one goal: keeping her from being able to light these idiots up.

Not that she would. It simply wouldn't accomplish anything anymore.

She's so terribly tired and so terribly sick of fighting, and no matter what she does, no matter how much she tries to delay the inevitable, this day will always come for her eventually. Better it be now than later, she thinks grimly.

Now before it becomes so much harder for everyone.

Her eyes fall upon Emma's as she thinks this, and she smiles slightly.

"Exile," comes the response from Snow. This word is met with the shocked murmurings of the crowd. Someone around the back of the crowd screams for death, but almost everyone else seems enthralled, fascinated by what's occurring here. Regina's head snaps up and she stares at Snow for a long moment, studying the younger woman's eyes, wondering about her motivations.

Why, she wants to ask. Why would you permit this? Why show mercy now?

"What does that mean?" Emma demands after a long moment of nearly suffocating silence. "What does exile actually mean?"

"It means, dear," Regina states, using every bit of control she has to keep her voice calm and even, "That in exchange for allowing me to live my life to its natural end, I would leave this town and never return. Isn't that right, Snow?"

"No!" Emma says immediately.

She's ignored. This conversation is strictly between Regina and Snow now, two monarchs negotiating a truce without a possible winner.

"It is," Snow agrees.

"What about Henry?" the brunette asks. She's suddenly quite thankful for whomever it was who'd decided that Henry shouldn't be here for this. He's hanging out with a few children from school, acting like a little boy for once. Blissfully unaware of the fact that one way or another, he's about to lose the mother who'd raised him for the first ten – almost eleven – years of his life.

"He stays here with Emma."

"So then I lose my son." It's a declaration of understanding, and if anyone hears the small break in the former queen's voice, well then they have great ears.

"Yes," Snow replies, and at least has the courtesy of looking a bit queasy and perhaps even a bit conflicted about the offer she's put on the table.

"No," Emma says again. She looks at Charming, begging him to step in. He shakes his head. He can't. And even if he could, he probably wouldn't.

"So those are my choices then?" Regina queries. "Death or exile?"

Snow meets her eyes, confirms with a slow blink of her eyes. "There has to be justice," she tells her former stepmother, like it should explain everything.

And perhaps it does. They may be in a little town in Maine, but these people now recall their lives in the old world. They remember when justice was handled swiftly, if not always fairly. The trials were quick and efficient and the blood of the guilty always seemed to provide closure to the injured. At least in theory.

"Of course," Regina nods. "Am I at least allowed the night to decide my fate?" She holds up her hand, shaking the bracelet. "I'm a threat to no one but myself."

"One night," Snow agrees. "But come six in the morning, Regina, your decision needs to be made. This has to be over."

"It will be." She considers biting off a snide "Your Majesty", but doesn't have the heart for it. It would be derision simply for the sake of such, and it seems to her that the time for that has long since come and gone. She turns towards Emma and steeling herself, says, "Sheriff, I place myself into your custody."

"No, not her," Whale sneers, taking a step forward. "She'll just let her go."

"And where would I go, you insufferable moron?" Regina snaps. Apparently she still has some anger within her. Especially for this man who'd had a hand in her youthful downfall. Apparently, he's forgotten his role in that charade.

She thinks that one way or another, she'll be glad to be rid of the righteousness of the people of this damned town.

"What if Sheriff Swan takes the bracelet off?" he asks the crowd. He's trying to rally them again, trying to get them to deal with this in their own way. Perhaps he thinks vengeance born of fire and blood will clean his dirtied slate.

It won't. Regina knows this all too well.

"Enough," Snow calls out. She holds up her hand to silence the volatile crowd, and for a moment, both Regina and Emma are taken by the quiet leadership of the woman. She's a natural at this. "My daughter will do her duty."

Emma starts to speak, starts to protest, but Regina interrupts her with a shake of her head. "Yes, she will," the brunette states, just as regal in her own way. She offers Emma a small sad smile, and then extends her wrists to the blonde again.

"Welcome to Boston, kid," Emma Swan says with a grin big enough to be called shit-eating if it wasn't quite so sincere and heartfelt. She stretches an arm out as if to show him the entire city in one easy sweeping motion.

Ridiculous, of course, but it makes Henry laugh, the sound deep and full.

"I have been here before," her sixteen-year-old son reminds her as he pulls his heavy pea coat tighter around his lean frame. He's taller than her by a good four inches now, strong and well built. He's lost most of the sharpness in his face, but his smile still has a way of dominating his cheeks, and making his eyes twinkle.

"Yeah," Emma nods, a bit thoughtful. She wonders again if this had actually been a good idea, to bring them both back to this city.

To where it all began.

But he'd asked for tickets to the Patriots game, and when your kid turns sixteen and what he wants most is to spend a day at the field with you, well you say yes.

And then you buy the best damned tickets you can find.

Funny how he'd ended up taking a liking to football, she thinks to herself as wind snaps at her cheeks and flakes of snow flitter through the cool air. His liking for the sport is due to her influence, she knows, but it's still interesting since he'd spent the first ten years of his life more the geek than the jock. He's still mostly just the nerdy kid with royal blood running through his veins, but he's picked up an interesting almost graceful kind of athleticism along the way as well.

And he has quite the thing for watching wide-outs who take bad routes to the ball get crunched by the beer-bellied defensive player.

At first, she'd again assumed that to be her influence because Regina had never shown the least bit of interest in sports, especially ones as rough and barbaric as football (she'd always wondered what the former queen would have thought of rugby). After awhile, though, she'd come to notice how intensely Henry had watched the strategic part of the game. She'd noticed how he'd mapped out every play logically in his brain. And how'd he delighted in seeing a player who failed to carry out his given task pay the rather brutal price for such failure.

She'd never mentioned this to Henry, never called it out, but deep down, she'd found herself pleased to see that some of Regina had stuck around in him.

There are other things, too, of course. For instance, Emma's never been much of a reader (unless you count trashy ten cent novels or magazines read in the check-out line), but Henry is voracious. That his nightmare – and subsequent loss - had begun with a book hasn't altered his appetite for the written word.

Perhaps the only change is that he reads less about stalwart perfect heroes, and more about redemption and fallen angels. When Emma asks about this, he always shrugs his shoulders as if that's an answer. It's the only one she gets.

It's been five years since the morning she'd woken up alone in bed. Five years since she'd had to sit Henry down and tell him that Regina had left town.

A bit more than five years since she and Henry had first met here in Boston.

He's sixteen now, no longer the wide-eyed imaginative ten-year-old boy who'd happened to be right about his mother being the Evil Queen.

Now, she's just the mom he misses terribly, but never speaks of. He carries a picture of Regina in his wallet, and this blanket that he'd loved as a child still covers his bed even now. It's still his favorite. Still as much a part of him as her childhood blanket with her name sewn into it is a part of her.

It's guilt and it's remorse and it's sadness, and try as she might, there's nothing Emma can do to make these things better because she feels all of them as well.

Still, today is his day, and she won't let the past bring either of them down. So she smiles again and says, "I have an idea."

He tilts his head and his expression is bemused and a bit wary, and for a moment, she's dead certain that he's Regina's biological son and not her own.

"We have three hours until game. How about you and I go check out my old pad."

"Your old pad?" he asks, eyebrow lifted. She wonders if he's about to snap off something like, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard, Miss Swan," but after a moment, he simply nods his head. "You mean your old loft. Yeah, okay."

"Henry," she says softly, wishing he was short enough for her to be able to kneel down to look him in the eyes. Instead, smiling a bit, she lifts herself up on her toes. "We don't have to do this if you don't want to. I know it brings back…"

"Memories," he finishes. Then he shrugs his shoulders. "We were all just playing a part. You're the Savior. She was the Evil Queen. You were always meant to come to town. One way or another, I was always going to end up at your door."

She hates the fatalistic note she hears, but she's gotten somewhat used to it. It's how he handles the loss of his adopted mother, how he copes and rationalizes. How he keeps from letting his anger and hurt overwhelm him.

How he deals with the fact that even things had kind of sort of worked out for them, they'd all pretty much been played from day one.

She thinks that maybe he's learned to deal with that a lot better than she has.

"We don't have to go," she says again. "We can go get lunch instead. I know a great little sandwich –"

"No, we should go. I…I want to. I want to go."


"I want to remember her today," he answers.

"But it doesn't have to be there," she presses.

"There's where I found you."

"I know and every day, kid, I'm thankful for that, but…"

"I don't regret finding you, Mom. I regret losing her." And then he laughs.


"You jumped when I called you 'mom'. You still do that sometimes."

"Sorry. I love it, honestly."

"I know. And I know you're thinking about her, too. I don't think she'd be upset about me calling you 'mom' anymore. I think she'd be okay with it."

"I hope so."

"Look, I want to go, but if you don't want to…"

"No. I think you're right. I think we both should," she cuts in.

"Closure?" he asks, eyebrow up.

"Sure," she nods. "Closure."

It's a lie, though, and they both know it.

There are some things you can reasonably manage to put away, some things you can with some effort find a way to live without even though you don't want to.

And then there are some things that no matter what you try to do, no matter how hard you fight and struggle, you'll never get over. Not really anyway.

This is one of those things.

Five Years Earlier.

She sits next to his bed until he falls asleep.

He has no idea what's happening or why his mother seems so terribly sad (she's always been a little sad, but even he can tell that this is somehow more than that), but he's oddly comforted to have her at his side tonight. It's where she should be, he thinks, even though he doesn't understand why he feels this way. And when she whispers, "I love you so much, my sweet perfect boy," into his ear just before he drops off, he feels something like a sickening clenching in the middle of his chest. His heart actually really hurts, and he doesn't understand this, either.

Thankfully, ten-year-old boys have the luxury of sleep where adults might not.

When she finally – reluctantly - leaves his side, there are tears on her cheeks.

Emma looks up towards the second floor of the house again.

A glance at her watch and she realizes that Regina has been upstairs with Henry for over two hours. At first, the former queen had been simply reading to her son. Something from Shakespeare. When Emma had finally left the room, unable to handle the raw emotion emanating off of the older woman, Regina had been asking him about his day and talking to him about his plans for the week ahead.

It'd all been too normal.

Like the Sword of Damocles hadn't been hanging over her head.

Emma waits downstairs now, impatient and frustrated. Seconds away from an explosion that she thinks could tear this whole town apart. She waits for Regina to come out of their sons' bedroom. Waits for the brunette to descend the stairs.

And while she waits, she paces. Back and forth.

Anxious, scared and very much wishing that she could hit something.

"You look like you need a drink, my dear," the silky voice says, and Emma jerks her head up to see Regina standing at the foot of the stairs, looking impeccable as always. Looking like she hasn't a concern in the world.

Like she doesn't have the night to decide whether to die or run.

"I do," Emma agrees as she runs a hand through her messy blonde hair.

"Seems like a good evening for something hard," Regina suggests, and then motions over to where a decanter of bourbon sits. She gathers up two crystal tumblers, fills them to the brim with bourbon, and then offers one to Emma with a bit of a wry knowing smile. "Drink hearty," she suggests.

"Don't you think maybe we should keep a clear mind?" Emma counters.

"Believe me, Sheriff, making life and death decisions sober isn't any better than making those same choices while drunk. I've tried both. I think – especially for decisions such as this one - I prefer the less stressed out approach."

"Yeah, me, too," Emma agrees. "But you know, that probably explains a lot about the both of us." She tries to soften the words with a small smile.

Regina laughs. "Point taken. Drink. And sit down. No value in destroying these floors with your boots. You'll have plenty of time for that later."


"Either way we go, Emma, this is my last night in this house."

"It doesn't have to be. I can talk to them. I can make them understand."

"No, you can't."


"Listen to me. I don't want to spend tonight worrying about the things that can't be changed. I wanted to spend tonight with him and now, I want to spend it with you." She offers Emma a watery smile. "I never thought I'd say that."

"Neither did I."

"Mm. Life is funny, isn't it?"

"Funny isn't the word I'd use."

"Perhaps not," Regina agrees, her voice low and rumbling. She takes a healthy sip from her tumbler, enjoying the burn of the alcohol.

Emma shakes her head, as frustrated by Regina's calm as she is the overall situation. "This is insane. This is wrong."

"So very much is."

"I'm expected to just stand outside and let them kill you. Or let you leave."

"Yes. That's exactly what you're expected to do. And exactly what you will do."

"No. I can't. I won't."

"You can and you will and you must. For Henry and for your family."

"Fuck that."


The blonde shakes her head again, this time harder, which causes her blonde mane to whip around. "We'll come with you. We'll leave together. That's still exile, right?" She moves close to Regina, into the same personal bubble.

"You would do that for me?" Regina asks, tilting her head.

"In a heartbeat. All of this is still madness to me. I understand it…kind of…but Charming and Snow, they're good friends, but they're not my parents yet. You and Henry, you're my family," Emma insists. "You're who I want to be with."

"I'm merely your lover, dear," Regina corrects. "And though you may not believe it yet, there will come a time when you regret such."

"I'm willing to take my chances."

Regina simply nods her head. She finishes off her glass of bourbon, and then puts it on the table. "Come to bed."

"That's not an answer."

"I need to think," Regina replies.

"And you can do that while I'm…"

The brunette laughs at this. "Of course not, but I find that I think much better afterwards." She extends a hand. "Please," she says simply.

"Why do I feel like this is a last supper?"

Regina lifts an eyebrow. "Never really considered myself food."

"You know what I mean."

"I suppose I do." She shrugs slightly. "Just…come with me."

"Upstairs or…"

"For now…just upstairs. Everything will work out as it should."

"You're scaring me, you know that, right? You're so calm about all of this."

"Only on the outside, dear." She wiggles her fingers in invitation.

Slowly, almost reluctantly, Emma takes her hand.

It's never been like this before.

They've come together dozens of times by now – if not far more than that. At first, they'd bedded down due to anger and mutual disgust/lust with each other. Slowly, their unions had evolved into a grudging understanding of their similarities, and then at some point or another, they'd even come to see each other as actual partners in well…whatever their relationship had become.

From there, real feelings had come into the picture and everything had gotten a little bit more intense, and a little more…vibrant and explosive.

This is all of those things and none of them.

This is slow and emotional. This is terrifying and exhilarating.

This is perfect and horrible all at once.

Each touch, each kiss, each whimper.

Emma's on top this time, and for once, they're not jockeying for position or power. For once, the former queen allows her lover to take charge.

She closes her eyes as lips trail across her neck and then down her chest. She cries out as hands map each of her curves and swells before fingers glide over her thighs and then slide within her. She gasps her lover's name as her vision goes bright white and her body loses all ability to move.

She almost says words that she knows will damn them both.

Emma does says them.

It's what makes Regina make the choice she does.

The first thing Emma notices when they reach the building that had once housed her loft is that it's no longer the cheap seats that it had once been. It's been up-scaled considerably, remodeled dramatically.

All the way down to the high-tech security door that has been put in so as to keep outsiders from coming in uninvited. Emma wonders what would have been of her life had this door been in place five – almost six – years ago.

Still, door or not, it's a piece of cake for she and her sixteen year old son to get into. They merely wait for an older woman carrying too many groceries to come by, and then Henry – wearing a big smile – offers to hold the door open for her.

He's tall and handsome, but he's still a geeky looking kid, and the old lady simply smiles and says thank you as she enters past him, never noticing Emma slipping in behind her. Never noticing how when the door shuts, Henry is inside as well.

The wait for the next elevator after the old lady disappears, and then they take it up to the third floor. To where Emma's loft is.

And then that's when they see her.

That's when they see Regina. Older, less regal and a bit small, but still her.

She's standing in front of the door – which still has so much absurdity written across it in elegant swoops and print – unlocking it with shaky unsteady hands.

After a moment of this, the keys drop from her hands, and for a few seconds, the former queen just sits kneeled on the ground, a hand in her dark brown hair.

It's Henry who breaks first. Henry who can't keep his emotions controlled.

It's Henry who calls out for her.

"Mom," he whispers, his voice like thunder in the silent hallway.

Her head snaps around, and her eyes widen. Even five years and at least a foot of growth later, she'd know her son anywhere.


His face explodes into an epic smile and then he's rushing her, forgetting his age and his size completely. She just spreads her arms and allows him to slam into her frame. Her hands jut out and for a moment, fail to find anything to grab at, and then suddenly, they're around him and pressing into the fabric of heavy coat.

"Henry," she says again.

"I'm here, Mom," he tells her. "I'm here."

It's the most open display of emotion that Emma has ever seen from either Regina or Henry. And it only gets more so when both mother and son start crying against each other, both of their tears silent but wracking in their intensity.

Emma watches from a small distance away. Her heart is pounding in her chest, and she's certain that everyone in the city can hear it.

She doesn't care.

All she cares about are the two people in front of her.

Two people she doesn't plan to ever let go of again.