I Believed In You
IMPORTANT EDIT HAS BEEN MADE
Disclaimer: I do not own Once Upon a Time or any characters within. This is for entertainment purposes only and is not intended for profit.
Summary: (Swan Fire/Neal, Swan Queen) Emma knew that just because you believed in something didn't make it true. Regina knew that just because you wanted to believe in something didn't make it real. But they both did anyway. (Post Cricket Game; Cora's return to Regina; weakness and belief)
Author's Note: I am unclear as to whether or not this will be a two-part installment. I do have a dim outline of what would transpire afterwards. Otherwise, Lana Parrilla and shipping Regina with Happiness filled me with feels and this came out. I've heard a lot of mean and hurtful things said on this show but Emma's line of Regina being someone Henry cares about and Archie the one he loves was just plain horrible. As if she didn't break Regina enough by rescinding her faith, wow. Good yet bad! Watch this show, they said. Plus, I really can't stand the Henry tug of war. I'm not mad at Emma, for I understand her line of reasoning and conclusions, but I simply couldn't wait for the series to churn out more episodes. Quotes are not exact. Assumption that Neal is Baelfire.
This story was inspired by a Tumblr post by fakeplasticlovely:
It's interesting that Emma losing faith in Regina is what truly broke her.
"You can pretend all you want, but we know how you are. We know who you are and how you will always be! You will never change!"
"How am I supposed to tell him that someone he loves was killed by someone he cares about?"
She would not feel guilt.
Emma hated Regina.
Her parents were right: Regina couldn't change. She would always be the Evil Queen. Emma didn't know what she was thinking, believing Regina, thinking she knew her. They had said and done a lot of hurtful things to each other but somehow denying Henry's love for Regina wouldn't stop nagging at her.
It suddenly occurred to Emma that she and Regina had essentially swapped roles. She was now the one to force a Henry blockade on Regina. Emma knew what that felt like. Now Regina was unequivocally alone, with no one believing in her, that she could change or…
Emma still understood Regina. There was so much of her that she could see in Regina and it frightened her. Emma kept turning things around in her head, desperately trying to make sense of it all.
Chasing after Regina from the party.
Regina lifting Archie by the throat.
Regina's sincere apology.
The clouds of magic rolling off Regina in waves.
Her lie detector staying dormant when interrogating Regina.
Pongo barking viciously, even when Archie told him not to worry.
The look in Regina's eyes—warm.
The look in Regina's eyes—cold.
Archie trusted her, Henry trusted her, Emma trusted her and she had betrayed them all.
Snow had told her but Emma hadn't listened. She had believed in the good in Regina's heart that she could have sworn was there. As much as she'd like to, she didn't know Regina. Emma knew Mayor Mills, Regina, and she had defended her and it was stupid and hopeless and it still shouldn't hurt, it shouldn't even hurt at all—
Emma, startled, dropped the microwave and screwdriver clenched in her hands, the result being a loud crash that she and Henry recoiled from. "Oh, hey, shouldn't you be in bed?"
Henry frowned disapprovingly at her. "You broke the microwave."
"I didn't break it," Emma huffed indignantly. "I, uh, maimed it. I'll replace it. We don't need to microwave cereal." She bent down and started to pick up the clutter from the microwave disembowelment she had unconsciously engaged in.
Henry immediately came over to help her pick up the pieces. Emma smiled wanly at him and paused when she looked closer at him. "Are you still sad about Archie?" She dropped everything and clutched him fiercely to her side in a one–armed hug.
A few minutes passed before Henry spoke. "I can't believe she did it."
Emma swallowed ostensibly. "Henry… Mary Margaret, David, Gold, Belle and I all saw Pongo's memories. It was Regina."
Henry turned red–rimmed eyes up to her.
"There's always a price."
"Heartbreak. That's our price."
"It doesn't make sense, Emma. Why would she do that?"
"I have no reason to hurt anyone. I wouldn't endanger my relationship with Henry like that."
"Ruby said she saw them arguing earlier in the day," Emma gently said.
Emma had to make Regina understand why she was scared to trust her, and that she had someone to believe in her. The words came tumbling out of Emma's mouth in a veritable word–vomit but she had been too busy— being what, nervous?—to notice that Regina's countenance had begun to shift from open and honest to closed and suspicious.
Emma felt a shiver go down her spine. Had she unwittingly caused Regina to unleash her fury on Archie? She knew what it was like to have your trust violated, that anger rising to the surface faster than you could breathe.
"Emma," Henry said in such a condescending voice that it made Emma think only of Regina. "My mom argues with people all the time. She argued with you more than anyone and she saved your life."
That's what Emma had thought, too. Regina had even saved Snow White, her most reviled foe, simply because Henry had asked her to believe in him.
"Henry, there's only so much a person can take before they break. She's the Evil Queen," Emma's voice sounded dead even to her own ears. "She will never change. It was all a lie," and the anger and betrayal and overwhelming hurt choked the rest of the words in her throat.
Henry turned in Emma's arms to look up at her. The sadness in his face broke Emma's heart all over again.
Emma hated magic.
"I want to see him more."
I want to see you more.
It had almost come out, that tiny little word. That miniscule glimmer of hope—a drop of warmth on her heart. Regina had somehow let that drop cultivate like a seed in the depths of her heart, in the special place next to Henry's. It made her…different.
Regina could recall with a painful clarity the day before when Emma had knocked on her door, the raps of her knuckles swift and sure, as always.
Regina had felt the chill settle at the bottom of her spine at the noise. An intruder, perhaps? A crowd ready to mete out justice now that Snow had returned?
Or… maybe Henry, her mind reeled frantically and Regina found her hands going instantly to her hair to fluff it back into place and down the sides of her outfit for any traces of lint.
She would show him that she still trusted him. That she still loved him. That she had truly changed, and it didn't matter how long she would have to wait, she wouldwait for his love, forever if need be.
"Miss Swan," Regina breathed lightly. Emma was bundled in a fuzzy sweater combination that wasn't abhorrent to behold. Regina could feel the nervous energy rolling off Emma in waves, the magic within her tickling her mind, begging her to take advantage of it, to relish the power she held over a woman as strong and insurmountable and…
"Regina," Emma's voice held a smidgen of hesitation but rang clear and true. Her eyes locked onto Regina's and there was a strange stirring in the cavern in her chest.
Without her consent, Regina found her lips twitching upwards. "Would you care to come in?" She stepped back in offering.
Emma blinked rapidly a few times before swallowing a smile. "I'm actually running some errands, sorry."
There was no disappointment in Regina at the statement, none at all.
"I, uhm, there's kind of a little celebration at Granny's tonight," Emma began to prattle on and her fingers began to toy with the frays at the end of her sleeves. Regina was oddly fascinated by the movement. "And, it's dumb because we already had a dinner but I guess everyone wants a potluck or something because that's bonding or something and I don't really see the point but I'm going to make tacos and I was wondering if you'd like to join us."
Regina was so caught up watching Emma pick at her sleeves that she got a bit lost during Emma's ramble. Regina blinked in confusion to hide her embarrassment.
Emma chewed her lip for a moment. "Uh, as my guest? H–Henry's gonna be there, too," she added, knowing that his name was the magic word for Regina's assent.
"I don't think I'd be welcome," Regina started and cut herself off when Emma's face clicked from nervous to confident.
"It's to celebrate me and Mary Margaret returning, and we wouldn't have been able to come back if you hadn't saved us."
The memory sent a tingle throughout Regina's body.
"And you're my guest, and I'm the Saviour so what I say goes," Emma flippantly said and shrugged as if she didn't care one whit but Regina saw through it.
She knew Emma.
"Alright, then, I'll make some lasagna. As I recall, David enjoyed that dish as well." A tight smile surfaced at the thought of being trapped in a room full of people who hated her.
"Great," Emma injected some forced cheer into her statement. Regina cocked an eyebrow at the tone and Emma's smile transformed into one that was smaller but much more sincere.
Regina preferred that one.
They had finished all the lasagna despite Leroy's infantile suspicions about the dish being poisoned. As if Regina would taint the dish knowing that Henry would have some. Like everything else she ever offered it was taken from her without a thanks and she was left all alone for she knew she couldn't force Henry to stay with her throughout the disgustingly chipper celebration.
Regina could see her face twist into the Evil Queen as she stared at herself in the mirror hanging in the hallway. She had been tricked again. First Snow, and then her daughter; she should have seen it coming.
"You don't want to stay? There's cake."
No. She had seen it but she had deluded herself into thinking that Emma was different. That she was different.
"Emma…I– I'm sorry."
How had it come to that? Regina had chased after Emma, practically begged her to accept Regina's apology. As if thanking Emma hadn't been enough she had the audacity to cultivate a forlorn hope that Emma had wanted Regina to be there, too.
The way Emma had gazed at her in the interrogation room, searching Regina's eyes for any trace of falsehood, and she found none and she had believed in Regina and it felt as if Regina had an ally, finally, someone to defend her and knew of her love for Henry and believed in that and…
It was all a lie.
Emma betrayed her, just as Snow did. That, Regina was used to. That she could handle.
"Heartbreak. That's our price."
"You'll never change. You'll always be the Evil Queen."
It was an utter lie. Emma never believed in her. She said that she believed in Regina, that Regina had changed.
Well, she had proven them wrong.
Regina felt the hurt burn in her chest, oppressive and fierce. It traversed throughout her body and the Regina looking back at her in the mirror wasn't the Evil Queen.
It was the Regina who killed her father.
The Regina who still loved her mother.
The Regina who lost Daniel.
The Regina who could have made it had Emma only kept believing in her.
She was broken again— now there was nothing left. She had lost Henry and Emma; there was truly nothing to hold her back anymore.
And that's when she felt it.
"Emma, you don't have to go," Snow pleaded.
Emma absent–mindedly drew circles on the island, the barstool under her wobbling every so often. Henry was sitting near her, dejected as she was. Her parents had taken to pacing frantically throughout the apartment. Gold had finally called in her favour to him and she was to set out with him to help him find his son. Apparently he knew where his son was so it would be a quick job, in and out; she wouldn't be gone too long.
"Regina will come after Henry," David said and laid a heavy hand on Emma's shoulder.
Henry mournfully turned baleful eyes to Emma. It made her heart constrict painfully. "What if she comes to take me?"
Emma replied instantly, in a whisper that was full of a belief she had no idea she harbored. "She won't hurt you."
"Emma, you can't know that," Snow softly said. "As much as you'd like to, you'll never know Regina."
The statement irritated Emma for no apparent reason. "She won't hurt Henry," she repeated instead and glowered stubbornly at her mother.
"She has before, you said so to her face," David reminded Emma and once again she was awash with anger, guilt and shame.
She just wanted it to be over, she never wanted to relive those moments.
"I don't know how to use magic and I'm certainly not asking Gold for help, so I really doubt that I could stand in her way," Emma grumbled and she started to tap forcefully against the countertop.
"You have magic?"
Emma's spine stiffened at the accusation in Henry's voice. She quickly swiveled to face him only to feel her stomach drop at the hurt on his face. "Regina's mother tried to take my heart but she couldn't and I blasted her away with magic. Then I used it to get the memories from Pongo to see…what happened to Archie."
For a moment, Henry's expression warred between upset and contemplative. His eyes brightened suddenly and he leaned toward Emma. "Did you get the memories from her?"
"What? No, there wasn't a need to, Henry, we had a witness, that was enough," Emma stumbled slightly at the excitement in his voice.
Emma was certain that Henry believed in Regina because she had believed in him. The thought touched her but she knew that people often believed in others because they wanted to, not because it was right.
Henry shook his head rapidly. "Grandma said Cora could shape–shift. What if that was her instead of my mom?"
Out of the corner of her eye she could see David and Snow wince when Henry called Regina his mom. "The portal closed after we came back out, Henry, there's no way Cora could be here."
"Hook is here," the tiny admission tumbled out of Snow's lips. Emma whipped her head to behold her mother who had turned an alarming shade of pale. "He doesn't have magic and he was working with Cora…"
"No," David shook his head. "There's no reason for her to kill Archie."
"She doesn't need a reason," Emma intoned direly, recalling the events of her time in the other world.
"But she does have one," Snow brokenly whispered, tears beginning to seep out of her eyes.
"What?" David laid a comforting hand on Snow's back and rubbed soothingly.
"Regina. She killed Daniel to teach Regina a lesson. She tore out the heart of her daughter's True Love and crushed it in front of her to have her learn that love was weakness." Snow's lips had begun to tremble.
Emma felt her body freeze instantly. What if this was true? What if her intuition, her magic, hadn't failed her and Regina truly was innocent as Emma had so ardently believed?
What if Emma really did know Regina?
The thoughts were frightening, the terror saturating every cell in her body.
She couldn't believe it. All the terrible things she had said to Regina, the haunted look as her words finally broke Regina, the slow shattering reflected in her eyes…
"We don't know that." Emma's voice mercifully wasn't broken as she got off the stool. Three pairs of eyes honed in on hers, ranging from shock to disappointment. "Until we can prove that Cora did it— let alone is even here— Regina is guilty. We've proven it."
"Exactly. I don't know how it works in your world, but here it's hard to find evidence. There's too much, it's too obvious."
"I'm going with Gold now and we'll be back soon," Emma said and gathered Henry into her arms and held on tightly for a few moments. He was limp. When she pulled back she was disheartened to see the doubtful face so often presented to Regina now peering up at her.
Without another word, Emma left the apartment.
It was that same smile. The one she wore after she killed Daniel, after Leopold had proposed. The smile that Regina dreaded and desired: a smile of pride.
"Mother," Regina's voice was small and insignificant and in her mother's reflection in the mirror, Regina could see her start to swell.
"Regina, my darling," Cora's voice held a facsimile of love over the shadow of the true feeling. "I've come back to you."
Even in her darkest hour, or, perhaps it was because it was her darkest hour, Regina's mother had reappeared once more. Even after Regina had banished her to Wonderland. Even after she had sent Hook to assassinate her.
It was the most painful type of love she had ever experienced because this woman loved her back.
"I know why you did it, why you did it all." Cora glided her way across the room to stand behind Regina and the mirror, once more, just like she did when Regina had first used magic. The pose she adopted was the very same, the flinch Regina gave when her mother's arm encased her, exact and familiar.
Cora had always stayed by her side.
"I did what I had to," Regina murmured.
Cora had always done what she believed to be right for Regina. All of it was for Regina.
"I know," Cora whispered and the back of her hand brushed the hair behind Regina's ear.
Cora had always defended Regina.
"I just wanted to be free," and her belief was marred by her memories.
Cora always returned to Regina.
"Power is freedom," Cora breathed and her grip around Regina tightened.
There was nothing left to break so Regina turned in her mother's arms to face the woman. "I need you."
Cora's smile was beatific.
Emma knew she couldn't run away anymore. Her whole life had been spent running, whether to find or to escape, it didn't matter. When presented with anything, Emma ran. Until Henry, it was all she had ever known and so, so many times since he came into her life, Emma was tempted to run. The last time she tried to, Henry had fallen into a coma and her whole world was changed forever once more.
Now it had happened to her again. Gold's son turned out to be Neal and she was bringing him back to Storybrooke, to their son. Emma couldn't decide how she felt about it. Betrayal, hurt, anger, sadness, love, they all clashed fiercely within her heart and she could feel herself hyper–ventilate even thinking about it. As if sensing her distress, Neal placed a hand on her thigh and she nearly crashed them into the Storybrooke sign.
"What the hell?" Emma hissed defensively and slapped his hand off her, ignoring the thrill in her body his touch evoked.
"I was just trying to calm you down," Neal offered up his hands in surrender and Emma rolled her eyes at Gold's murderous expression in the rear–view mirror.
"Okay, you don't get to tell me what to do, just like it was never your place to decide what was best for me," Emma snarled and bore her eyes into his for a moment before ripping them away to the road.
"Are you going to be mad at me forever? I said I was sorry," Neal huffed petulantly before continuing in a sincere voice. "I did it because I love you."
The tires squealed horrifically as Emma slammed on the brakes, not caring that she stopped them in the middle of the road or that Gold and Neal were thrown haphazardly against the vehicle.
She hoped they bruised something terrible.
"No, you did it because you were afraid," Emma exhaled loudly. She was still pissed at August but she had forgiven Neal because she still loved him, despite all of the pain his betrayal and abandonment caused. "When you love someone, you believe in them, you trust them, you don't leave them. I could have still broken the curse. August could have brought us to Storybrooke and we could have found a way, together." The tears flowing down Emma's cheeks were like ice.
He tentatively placed his hand on hers and she moved her palm so their fingers entwined. "I'm sorry."
Emma nodded tightly and finally turned to face him and saw the man she loved shining in his eyes. "I know."
Neal swallowed. "I love you."
"I know." Emma couldn't let him back in again, not so quickly. She was afraid her love for him would swallow her again. She cleared her throat and retracted her hand. "Let's go see our son."
Emma could see the way Neal's smile lit his whole face, giving him that boyish enthusiasm she had always been enamored with. "You're going to have to show me all his embarrassing baby pictures," he joked.
"Oh, Emma doesn't have those," Gold finally spoke up from the backseat.
Neal turned to face his father and Emma gripped the steering wheel so tightly her knuckles turned white from the exertion. "What do you mean, Dad?"
"Well, Bae, Emma gave Henry up for adoption. He was adopted by Regina, the Evil Queen," Gold loftily said Regina's name as if it was nothing of import but Emma's jaw clenched all the same.
"Oh, so we're going to her place?" Neal turned to Emma.
"What? No, she doesn't have Henry, I'm his mother," Emma sourly stated.
Neal gave her a strange look. "She took care of him, right? Wait, he's not a little punk like you were, is he?" His smile poked at the anger in Emma's heart.
"She hasn't changed. She's still evil," Emma persisted and she wondered if she was trying to be an adult, convincing her childish belief in Regina being good to evaporate.
"She's a part of his life, and I don't think that anyone's beyond redemption," Neal quietly said and Emma caught a shine in Gold's eyes. "She's probably alone and sad, frightened…"he trailed off and looked out the side of the window before looking to Emma again. "Hurt. Those things can overwhelm a person, make them into something they're not. No matter the evil they've done, they still need someone to love them, to help them see who they truly are."
"I believed her," Emma choked out and was aghast at the emotion bottled up inside her. "I believed her when no one else would and I was wrong."
Neal gazed steadily at Emma. "Do you really believe you were wrong?"
Emma closed her eyes. "No," she admitted and she felt a great weight lift off her chest.
"Alright," Neal said brightly. "Dad, you can help me and Emma get to the bottom of this, right?"
"Of course, Bae, I'll help you but I really don't see why you feel the need to do so," Gold said.
Neal shrugged. "I'm not gonna have my son's other mother fall to the darkness. He deserves to have all of his family to be okay."
Emma jumped as her phone started to vibrate violently in her pocket. She pulled it out to see a text from Snow.
The phone clattered to the seat as she slammed on the gas and tore down the road.
"This was weakness," Cora stated, her voice sounding far–away even though her shoulder was brushing Regina's. The flames erupting from the pillars that upheld City Hall licked at the sky. Regina could envision the fire's steady devastation burn her office, years of memories being swallowed bit by bit.
The heat warmed her cheeks considerably.
"You have to destroy the weakness— only then can you be strong. A Queen is strong."
Regina's lower lip forced her upper one up into a smirk. "And the wretched world can finally have the Queen it deserves."
Cora's chest swelled with pride as she glanced at Regina. "Now this was only an exercise but it has served a dual purpose. Snow White and Emma will surely notice this and they will come for you." Regina trembled slightly but Cora paid it no heed. "I will be here, with you, my darling."
The soft caress against Regina's cheek burned hotter than any flame.
"Then I will do what I must, Mother," Regina's voice echoed across the gulf in her heart.
"Where is he?" Emma demanded as she threw open the car door and sprinted across the sidewalk to where her parents and the townsfolk were gathered under the clock. The bright flames of a fire lit up the black sky and its colour intensified with each second Emma drove further into the town. Neal and Gold hurried to her side but their presence afforded Emma little comfort. "Where did she take him," she growled and she could picture herself choking Regina, tying her to that damned tree, taking that sword and…
"We don't know that she did take Henry," Snow hesitantly offered. "He went up to your room to get ready for bed and it was only a few minutes but when Charming and I went to check on him he was gone. We had Blue come over to check for magic traces but she didn't find any."
Emma frowned. "That means he snuck out." He must think that Regina can still be saved. Henry, Emma sighed, that was her job. "Great. And now what, Regina's razing the town?"
David shifted his body and the sword on his back wobbled precariously for a moment. "It looks like only City Hall has been targeted for the moment. It's been burning for awhile now but Regina hasn't budged an inch." He shot Emma an apprehensive look. "Like she's waiting for someone."
"Me," Emma mumbled and her shoulders sagged. "Okay, it's obvious she wants me so the rest of you need to find Henry while I take care of her."
"Wait, Emma! You don't know how to use your magic—you may be stronger than Regina but she knows how to use magic properly. She will defeat you," Snow stepped close to Emma. She gave Neal a quick glance and Emma shook her head. There wasn't any time for that now.
Then Emma heard it. Even amidst the roar of the crowd and omnipresent crackling of flames, her son's voice penetrated through the thick atmosphere so that it was a whisper against her heart. Emma shoved Neal and Gold aside and ran straight to Henry, the both of them colliding in a tight hug.
"Don't ever go sneaking out again! I don't care if you think it's a good idea, you need to let me or Mary Margaret or David know! It was stupid and irresponsible and," Emma grunted as Henry cut off her rant by pushing his hands into her stomach. She released her hold on him and Pongo immediately laid his paws upon her leg and began yapping happily. Emma, confused, looked up and felt the blood drain from her face the instant she heard a collective gasp as everyone beheld a rather bedraggled Archie Hopper.
"Archie! You're alive!" Emma maneuvered around Henry and Pongo to clasp Archie's shoulder but pulled it back immediately upon seeing him wince.
"Somehow," Archie joked. "Listen to me Emma, Regina's mother was behind everything. Henry told me that she set–up Regina and, well, bad things happened."
"I snuck out to get Pongo from Ruby's and we went and followed him to Hook's ship and found Archie in the hold. Don't be mad at Ruby," Henry pleaded.
Emma shakily ran a hand through her hair, hoping to gain a moment's composure. "Okay, I'm glad you're all safe and everything, but Regina's gone off the deep end. I don't think she's coming back from this one."
Henry vehemently shook his head. "She can! She just needs someone to believe in her," he looked up at Emma imploringly and she felt her heart break anew.
Emma lowered herself so she could look Henry in the eyes. "She may be beyond saving."
"You're the Saviour!" Henry yelled and backed away from Emma. "You can't know until you try!"
"Henry! I already tried! See this!" She gestured wildly at the flames crisping the night sky behind her. "This is her refusing to change! This is her truth!"
Henry's body began to shake with anger and he attempted to bulldoze his way through the crowd and for a horrible moment Emma thought he had slipped past her fingers but Neal caught the boy in his arms.
"Hey, Henry, your mom can't be helped if you're angry," he said and persisted his hold on Henry's shoulders even when the boy began to struggle. "She needs you to believe in her from a place of love and compassion. Do you get what I'm saying?"
Henry gulped back his tears and felt his heart wrench as he looked at the man who was achingly familiar. "I love her," he tremulously admitted and could see his grandparents hang their heads out of his peripheral vision. Emma was behind him and he was afraid to see what her expression held.
The man held Henry's gaze for a long moment, his smile was heart–felt and Henry loved him instantly, as he had Emma. "I know."
"Emma!" Snow screamed and Henry and the man turned to see a blur of blonde getting into a car and tearing off toward City Hall.
Regina felt nothing as she heard the roar of an engine get ever louder. The flames in front of her washed away her feelings, hesitations, thoughts as if they were but specks on the ground, invisible to the eye but able to be vanquished all the same.
She knew it was Emma even before the woman called her name. Ever since they had opened the portal together, Emma's magic had touched her, whispering insidiously in her veins, the purity of True Love mocking her constantly. Regina closed her eyes and breathed in Emma's feelings. The magic sparked like an open wire, huge bursts of power being haphazardly flung about with no true purpose or focus. They could easily be redirected, smothered.
"Miss Swan," Regina slowly enunciated as she turned to face Emma. The woman was wearing that damnable jacket again. Regina's eyes narrowed as she beheld the conflict on Emma's face. "Since you were so gracious to extend me an invitation, I am obliged to offer the same to you. This," she swept an arm behind her, "is my celebration. A purge, if you will. You see, Miss Swan…"
"Archie's alive," Emma interrupted swiftly. Regina felt her breath catch momentarily and something flare up inside her chest before she smothered it. Emma gazed at her searchingly, looking for something Regina knew to not exist.
Regina strode forward slowly, relishing the fear dancing in Emma's eyes even as she planted her feet firmly on the ground. She stopped a scant few feet in front of Emma, so close that she could smell her. Regina's lip curled as she extended an arm to cup Emma's chin. "I expect supplication, dear." A flick of her wrist and Emma cried out as gravity forced her to her knees. "On your knees. Beg for my forgiveness," Regina hissed and her grip on Emma's jaw tightened.
Emma's eyes burned brighter than the fires. It was beautiful. "Fuck you," she snarled and the burst from her magic shoved Regina back and it took a moment for Regina to correct her trajectory. When she looked up, she could see the gashes on Emma's face left by her nails when she was blasted back by the force of Emma's feelings.
Regina's eyes danced with hunger as she beheld Emma. The thrill of a worthy opponent, one who had never backed down, filled her blood and made her magic dance. The anger exuding off Emma created a mighty current of wind that blew Regina's hair back. She had never felt such utter exhilaration before. That was when she remembered her mother was lurking nearby and knew that if she felt it, her mother could and would succeed if she did not.
And Regina refused to fail.
Emma snarled as Regina's face fought to find purchase on a single emotion. She was a mirror to Emma's heart and it simultaneously broke and healed her. "I believed in you!" Emma screamed and all her emotions ignited something stirring in her blood, an electric current coursing through her veins and the power of her feelings sent a huge gust of wind toward Regina. She flinched but held her ground.
"You betrayed me!" Regina suddenly let her mask of indifference slip into something raw with hurt. Emma felt her own anger waver in the face of the pain etched in Regina's face. "You left me, just like Henry, just like Daniel, just like Snow! No matter what I do, it's never good enough, is it!?"
Emma grunted as Regina sent another blast of magic her way, propelling her back a few feet but thankfully not ripping her off the ground as it had done only several days before. "You're not blameless here, either, Regina! You killed Graham and countless others, and hurt far more emotionally. Your heart is as black as your mother's!"
Regina's face crumpled before a cloud of purple burst from her center, her eyes taking on a violet hue. Emma screamed as rough, unyielding branches cut in her body as they burst from the ground, encasing her in their grip. Emma struggled valiantly but ultimately in vain. Regina stalked towards Emma with dark purpose and Emma's heart churned with fear.
"Graham was dying anyway, you fool girl. He no longer had his heart and this world had no magic in it and his memories were slowly killing him." She smirked hollowly. "I did him a favour by ending it quickly. I regret nothing," she emphasized as the clouds billowing from her body died down and her eyes returned to her normal chocolate colour. "Say what you will about my mother but she has never stopped believing in me."
Emma's stomach roiled and she was sickened by the belief Regina held. It was awful, it was abuse, and it was the most twisted mockery of love she had ever seen.
She did know Regina.
"Henry loves you," Emma admitted and it wasn't painful to her anymore. Something snapped behind Regina's eyes and that was all the clarification Emma needed. "You're breaking his heart to save him," she whispered, anguished. All the fight drained out of her as Regina's face morphed into the Regina Emma knew and believed in. "I'm not afraid of you," she whispered. "He loves you," she repeated like each time Regina heard it would break through the walls to her heart.
Something clicked in Regina's eyes and she lost herself again as she brought a hand up to stroke at the column of Emma's neck. "And what about you, dear?"
The statement pierced Emma's heart quicker than any blade could. The air left her lungs in a whoosh and she struggled anew against her bonds. Regina's mouth kept shifting from a frown to a smile.
Emma was sure her fear was the exact same as Regina's as her hand twitched against Emma's throat. Emma craned her neck as far as she could to see everyone she loved— plus Gold— stampede their way toward her only to be knocked back by an invisible wall.
"Well, well, Snow, it seems you've brought everyone of import with you. You always were obedient," Cora chuckled as she revealed herself from the cover of night, air shimmering around her form, the only traces of magic visible.
Snow, David, Henry, Ruby, Archie, Neal and Gold all began to pick themselves slowly off the ground, their movements each a stake to Emma's heart. She chanced a look to Regina and was unsurprised to see her gaze focused on Henry, his own eyes honed on Regina's.
"Mom, please, don't do it, this isn't you."
Regina gulped slightly and no one but Emma could see it. "And what makes you think you know me, little boy?" The words clearly cut Henry to the quick and the tears began to cascade down his cheeks. "You should have listened to your real mother and stayed far away from me, for you will find nothing of value here. A Queen has no use for weakness," she deliberately hung on the last word and Snow's eyes widened in understanding and she clutched Henry tighter to her chest.
"Why did you frame Regina?" Snow demanded of Cora and Regina's grip on Emma's throat loosened.
Cora appeared bemused by the question. "I did it to help her, Snow, because mothers know best, don't they? Would you not go to any lengths to protect and save your child?" At Snow's horrified expression, Cora shook her head. "We're really not all that different, you and I." Her callous comments filled Emma with a sense of remorse and pity for Regina. "Or Rumplestiltskin," Cora grinned at Gold and her eyes landed on Neal. "Creating the curse and using my daughter simply to find your own son, you are certainly one of the greatest teachers of all," she dipped into a mocking bow.
Neal eyed Gold warily but stayed next to his father.
"She's mine, too, dearie, my monster," Gold's voice was completely flat but his eyes glittered in a way that frightened Emma. Everyone but Cora seemed shocked by the revelation.
The fingers twitching against Emma's neck was the only outward indication of Regina's shock. "Is everyone part of one big happy family?" Emma choked out.
"Emma," Regina chastised under her breath and Emma almost laughed at the absurdity of the normal response.
"Just because she was your student all those years doesn't make her your daughter, "Cora admonished tightly. "But if you think of her as such...I see that your aura has changed," Cora clucked at Gold. "It would seem you've let love cloud your senses and drain you of your powers. Oh, Rumple, you hypocrite."
Emma's breathing came even faster than before and she was afraid she would die of a heart attack before anything else. She could practically see all of her loved ones dying under the fires of Cora's depravity. Regina's fingers splayed tightly against her jugular and Emma felt her heart rate slow exponentially but when she looked to Regina the woman was already gazing steadily at Cora.
"Regina, take her heart," Cora's tone brokered no argument.
Snow and Gold's eyes scrunched in confusion, as did Emma's. Cora couldn't take her heart, so why would she ask it of Regina?
Regina, however, returned her gaze to Emma and she squirmed against her restraints when she beheld the coldness in Regina's eyes. The woman plunged her hand into Emma's chest and the intrusion was both terrifying and exhilarating. Unlike Cora, Regina's hand was warm as it grasped her heart.
"Regina can't take her heart, you know that," Snow called to Cora but she merely retained a smug expression as she beheld her daughter.
Regina's eyes never left Emma's since she gripped Emma's heart. Emma felt her pulse quicken as Regina's eyelids fluttered rapidly and her own chest began to rise and fall in quick succession. Her grip on Emma's heart was a caress compared to Cora's suffocating chokehold.
Regina pulled her hand back.
Emma gasped in shock and at the sensation of having her heart escape her body and Regina was pretty sure that Snow and the others screamed but their cries fell by the wayside as she held the heart of the Saviour in her hand. It was quite unlike any other heart she had held.
There was a different kind of warmth about it, one that permeated throughout her body and not just her hand. It was a fountain of emotion and memories and if Regina concentrated hard enough she could ascertain Emma's thoughts.
"How come you can take it?" Emma's broken whisper shattered Regina's concentration. She looked into Emma's eyes (so familiar, so heart–breaking, looking at her just the same as when they first met.)
At Cora's beckon, Regina inclined her head towards her mother but kept her eyes trained on Emma's. The heart in her hand vibrated with a startling intensity.
Regina remembered how addictive it was.
"You know why you could take her heart." Cora drew close to Regina, looming over her shoulder to gaze at the Saviour's heart. There was a manic gleam in her eyes that Regina recoiled from. "And you know that's why you must destroy it."
"No weakness," the answer fell automatically from Regina's lips. She wondered if Snow and the others could actually do or say anything. Everything was so, so very quiet.
Emma began to cry.
The heart assaulted Regina's mind with images of Emma's life, her happiness.
"You can pretend all you want, but we know how you are."
She could see how she'd do it: not a quick clench of her fingers, no, that was too fast, too merciful.
"We know who you are and how you will always be."
Would it be better to have a slow grinding of her fingers? Should she look at Snow instead?
"You will never change!"
Regina paused. That voice wasn't just Emma's. There were several voices creating a cacophony of hatred and dismissal. It was like a thousand swords piercing her heart and she couldn't stop her memories of her last fight with Emma.
No, no matter how hard you work or what you do, you will never change. They will never change.
Perhaps it would be best to draw out Emma's death. Keep bringing her to the edge, agony so intense that the despair will break her and she will beg Regina to end her.
And Regina will deny Emma that.
When she finally believed Emma, truly trusted her, that's when she lied to Regina. Regina let her in and she was betrayed in the most painful of ways. She was infuriated, inexplicably hurt that Emma used treasured information against her, things she had never told anyone, windows she had opened slammed down until the glass shattered and the shards punctured her heart and embedded themselves in it, constant wounds that oozed endless pain.
Regina cared too much for Emma and that was precisely why she had to destroy her.
Her fingers began to tighten around Emma's heart and Emma gasped— a primal sound that ripped at the tattered remains of Regina's heart. That's when Emma's heart reflected back Regina's previous thoughts.
That's why she was so mad. She's just like you.
Emma's tears glittered red in the glow of the burning building behind Regina. "I'm sorry."
Regina's arm began to shake violently.
She'll just betray you again and again! You can't let her!
The heart in Regina's hand began to slow its frantic pace. Sincerity flowed from it and Regina felt her conviction falter.
Emma spoke in a clear voice. "I believe in you."