"I can't believe them," Regina snarls, chopping peppers with a practiced hand that still makes Emma appropriately nervous. They've been home for two hours, watching some of the short films Henry has made, congratulating him over and over again. Eventually he'd squirmed too much and demanded some dinner, sending Regina back to her old kitchen almost on autopilot. Now they're out of his earshot, Regina can unleash some of her simmering rage about the argument at the Town Hall, and Emma has braced for it since the first slam of the fridge door.
"You know they prefer diplomacy," Emma tries to reason. "And I would agree with them if the Blue Fairy weren't such an almighty bitch. It's no coincidence you made them nuns, you know."
"The curse did that," Regina snaps. "But from what I hear of the Catholic Church, it was a particularly apt transformation. And don't talk to me about your parents and diplomacy. You weren't around when they were content to have my head on a pike."
"God, it's cute when you get all Game of Thrones," Emma teases, hoping the evening can still be resurrected. Regina bristles at the mockery, but relaxes into Emma's touch when she slips her arms around Regina's waist from behind.
"And it's cute when you get all domestic," Regina teases in return. "As if anything about us is cute. Or even normal."
"Oh, I don't know," Emma says. "We might not have done it the conventional way, but that kid in there is kind of a tribute to how good we are together. Well, mostly to you."
"You're getting carried away because you can taste the freedom," Regina accuses, turning her knife to the unsuspecting mushrooms. "Three weeks in New York and you'll be running off for more adventures."
"Only if you come with," Emma promises, tucking a loose strand of Regina's hair behind her ears, not daring to comment on the flash of silver. "I've done plenty of running in my life, Regina. I don't know why you would think I miss it."
"We can't help who we are," Regina mutters, features forming into a habitual scowl. But a moment later she shakes her head, as though determined not to give into the bad mood.
"Sometimes we can," Emma reminds her, stealing a slice of raw mushroom and stepping aside.
The fairies convene at midnight for their weekly council, and Regina is firm on Henry not coming with them; she mutters something to him about how they can't be trusted with other people's sons, and Henry relents with a sigh of disgust. Sure enough, he watches from his bedroom window as they leave, making Emma remember the first night she left him there, and it's a pang of nostalgia strong enough to leave her dizzy for a moment.
"Come on," Regina urges, glancing in disgust at the truck before dragging Emma towards the Audi that finally replaced her beloved Mercedes. Long drives to Maine every two months were too much for it after years of just pootling around town.
"You still have great taste in cars," Emma admits, slipping into the passenger seat as though they do this every day. The thought that they might is intoxicating, and like she has to clench her fist as a reminder to pace herself, just like she would on her first beer of the night. "Do you still drive like a maniac?"
"I learned to drive from a curse," Regina retorts. "What's your excuse?"
"You have to let my parents do the talking," Emma says as they pull out onto Mifflin Street, the road empty except for them. "If things go south, then we can do it your way. But I want to at least try."
"Nova assured me there's already unrest amongst the fairies," Regina reminds her. "But I'll behave. If nothing else, I'm feeling much too old for midnight quests and magical takeovers."
"You do still have those 35 years on me," Emma mocks. "Even if you don't show 28 of them."
"Don't remind me of all the reasons to leave you here," Regina threatens, however mildly. "Dear," she adds, to soften the tone. Their eyes meet in the rearview mirror, and Regina presses down on the gas.
For once, the blue bitch doesn't see the move coming. Emma's spent a long time trying to reconcile the ways that this one woman screwed her over in the name of magical harmony, and in the end she hasn't landed anywhere near forgiveness.
It's Nova, no longer so mild-mannered after her years married to Grumpy (a name that suits him so much better than Leroy ever did), who gets the job done, so efficiently that Emma almost finds herself spoiling for the fight.
"This is a democracy," Blue lies when Snow asks if she'll agree to a vote on her leadership. "So of course I agree to a vote." Her face falls when wand after wand rises in the night sky, shooting out pink stars that signify a vote for Nova. A few hardcore loyalists spark in blue to honor their leader, but they're a definite minority.
"Well," Blue says, and Emma has to nudge Regina who's just about stifling a smirk by her side. "Though this was unexpected, I will of course hand over to Nova immediately. I warn you, though. Do not make any hasty decisions in these first few days. Old deals must continue to be honored." The look she shoots at Regina suggests the fairy has begun to put the pieces together.
"How does it feel?" Emma asks, as they wait around for Nova to finish her conversations with each of the fairies in turn. Regina bites her lip, shoving her hands in her pockets. For a moment, it looks like she isn't going to answer at all.
"I'm glad," Regina begins quietly. "I'm glad that no one really tried to help her. I'm glad she knows what that feels like."
The glint in Regina's eye is an old darkness, and in that moment Emma sees the Queen who could raze entire kingdoms in unholy fire, someone who could tear out heart after heart in a futile bid to ease the pain in her own.
"Come on," Emma says, nodding at her parents who stand off to the side, forever keeping their distance from Regina. "We've waited long enough."
When they explain the whole plan to Nova, Emma is concerned at the childish expression of worry that crosses the fairy's face. If they're about to be thwarted by niceness at this stage, Emma might actually scream.
"This means interfering with what may be our last pure source of magic," she says, folding her arms over her chest. "Every week we find that less and less fairy dust is growing in the mines. Another patch of smooth rock that won't yield another speck."
"Which is why we want to give the magic to you," Regina sighs. "I told you this when I suggested your little coup. There are ways to store it; ancient ways that I personally never had cause to use. But with your band of winged idiots, even you can't screw it up too badly."
"Regina," Emma warns, but Nova doesn't seem overly insulted.
"The council will support me," Nova says, eyes flicking nervously to the group gathered around Blue. "But it will take time to make the preparations Regina has outlined."
"Can we get started by late afternoon?" Emma presses, because years of experience have told her that nailing down specifics is the only way not to be screwed over by these pests. "Only Regina has to leave town by seven, and can't come back for two months if we don't break the spell."
"Princess," Nova says kindly. "We will make every effort. This is not a simple task."
"My understanding is that Regina will be the one doing all the work," Emma replies, keeping her voice light.
"It'll be fine," Regina says out of nowhere, roughly the last source of reassurance that Emma expected. "Your parents can arrange for access to the mines, but for now we having nothing left to do but go home."
"Get some rest," Nova advises. "It's going to be a very difficult day."
Henry is waiting on the stairs when they get home, a little after one. He studies them both for a moment, until Regina nods and he bounds back to his bedroom with a grin on his face.
"Well," Regina says when they're alone once more at the foot of the stairs. "However shall we pass the time?"
"I can think of one thing that will make us sleepy," Emma suggests, taking Regina by the hand. "And may it be the last time here in this town."
"It will be," Regina says, her arrogance as astounding as ever. Emma pushes her back against the bannister, halfway up, and kisses Regina's neck with something that feels just a little like desperation.
"I need some more time with the books," Regina says, slipping out of bed a little after ten. As Mayor such a late rise was unthinkable, but she's becoming decadent without all that cursed responsibility on her shoulders.
"No," Emma insists, grabbing Regina's thigh before she can get all the way off the mattress. "We have all day. Unless getting it wrong somehow means bringing Rumplestiltskin back here..."
"Henry's making lunch," Regina reminds her. "And wouldn't you prefer me being well-prepared for such a tricky spell?"
"Go, then," Emma huffs, rolling back onto her side of the bed with an ungraceful thump. "But if it doesn't work, be sure to take the books home and study them. Waiting two months will be hard enough, we're not doing this over and over again."
"Emma," Regina says suddenly, crawling back onto the bed and grabbing Emma's shoulders. "It will work. Today, I promise."
"You'll forgive me if I don't hold my breath?" Emma asks, before Regina kisses her hard on the lips.
"Wouldn't expect anything else," Regina admits, before getting off the bed again and striding off to take her shower.
They linger over lunch, Henry doing most of the talking until the subject of magic removal inevitably comes up.
"Are you going to tell me exactly how it works?" Emma asks, picking at some leftover pieces of pork. "Only if I'm the one being Ghostbusted, I think I should know what to expect."
"It's more like an exorcism, actually," Regina sasses, gathering up the plates and moving around in her old routine to restore order to the dining room. "And there's not much to explain. You stand there, I do the spell. It doesn't hurt. Tickles, maybe. Then the fairies put the magic in the barrel needed to contain it... well, not exactly rocket science, dear."
"Can I help the fairies?" Henry asks. "Or did you need me to stand by with water and stuff?"
"She's not a boxer, kid," Emma mocks, but Regina's face has already clouded over.
"You're not coming," she says quite firmly. "If anything should backfire, or go wrong in some way I haven't thought of... no. Out of the question."
"Can I remind you that I'm 22 years old?" Henry asks, mouth forming into the pout he learned from his mother. "And that when I ask these things, I'm just being polite? You can't stop me from going anywhere."
"I'd rather have him there," Emma confesses. "If I'm distracted, someone should have your back,"
"Idiots," Regina says with a sneer. "I'm stuck with you hopelessly noble idiots, aren't I?"
"Looks like it," Henry says, picking up the empty glasses and following her into the kitchen to clear up.
Emma's a little surprised that Regina says they should take the truck, but Henry clambers into the back quite happily, his knees digging right into the back of Emma's seat until she shoots him a warning glare over her shoulder, and she shimmies into the middle before clicking his belt into place.
"Don't let Mom pick the music," he warns, and Regina smiles at the fact that after all this time, he still means her.
"Nobody's that crazy," Emma says, flicking the radio on and shifting into first gear.
Snow and David are waiting at the hastily reopened entrance to the mines, and something in the sight makes Emma's spine shiver in remembrance. The panic of Henry being trapped, of explosions and Regina's raw panic seem to have happened just yesterday and not twelve years ago. A quick look at Regina's pursed lips confirm she's fighting off the same feeling.
"Emma," Snow greets her, face a picture of worry. "You don't have to do any of this, you know that."
"She knows," Henry says, shaking his grandfather's hand with mock sincerity before fist-bumping it out. "We all know, grandma."
"Nova's waiting," David says, watching Regina with lingering distrust. "Just down by the first platform."
"Thank you," Regina says, and although her tone is as snippy as ever, a moment of understanding seems to pass between them.
"We'll wait here," Snow says. "Henry, you should stay with us."
"Yeah," Emma agrees, despite her earlier assurances. "We can yell if we need you, kid."
"Henry," Regina pleads, stepping closer and laying a hand tenderly on his cheek. "Will you please, please do this one thing for me? I need all my attention to be on Emma."
"This sucks," Henry says, snatching the truck keys right out of Emma's hand and stomping back towards the rough little parking lot.
"Let's go," Regina says, not even looking at Emma. "The clock is ticking."
Nova greets them warmly, three of the younger-looking fairies standing off to one side with what appear to be perfectly normal wooden barrels.
"Are those-" Emma starts to ask, but Nova cuts her off with a soft smile.
"Magically fortified," she explains. "They can handle it. Trust me, it's the only safe way to store raw magic."
"You know," Emma reminds her. "I remember when you were too scared to say 'boo' to anyone."
"People change, your Highness," Nova says, with a pointed look at Regina that's neither timid nor particularly kind. Yes, Emma thinks, the fairies should be just fine under their new boss.
"Are we ready?" Regina demands, sounding just like the Mayor again. She consults the watch on her slender wrist and Emma feels the strongest compulsion to wrap her fingers around that skin, to feel the bones beneath it, and press her lips to the ticklish pulse point that never fails to make Regina's breath hitch in her throat.
Later. There's magic to be done.
The fairies don't meet Emma's eye once in the brief preparations, which mostly consist of fairies stepping on each other's toes and Regina sighing none too quietly. Eventually Nova raises her wand and steps inside the chalk circle that's been hastily drawn on the floor of the mine.
"Emma," Regina says, offering her hand. Emma grasps it, maybe a little too firmly, and together they step into the chalk circle, too. It feels like a bizarre childhood game, and when the fairies begin to chant in sing-song voices it really doesn't help.
"It really doesn't hurt?" She asks, leaning in to whisper next to Regina's ear.
"It won't hurt you at all," Regina confirms, smiling in that sad way she still has, like the muscles of her face have never quite remembered what a full smile is like. They've all been far too sad, and angry, for far too long. She touches Emma's cheek with her free hand, for the briefest of moments, and Emma feels safe.
More than the love, or even the still surprising lust that leaves them bruised and breathless more often than not, it's that feeling of safety that Emma can't quite believe. It always feels kind of fitting though, that her own messed up version of security comes from a woman who killed and captured and ruined lives on a whim. That level of damage is comforting to Emma, and despite the many ways she's tried to explain it to her parents and friends, nobody else seems to understand.
Ruby, before she finally got her freedom, had been Emma's last hope for something like getting it. Instead Ruby had hugged her after too many shots of tequila and said, "It's because you're the Savior, Em. You just can't help but want to save her, too."
Honestly, Emma has no idea if that's what Regina gets from her or not, but whatever it is means she's here right now and holding Emma's hand, setting her free; it's hard to think that anything else matters, compared to that.
"Okay," Emma says, more to herself than anyone else. "Let's do this."
"Take a deep breath," Regina instructs. "Close your eyes," she urges, and Emma finds herself complying without a fight.
"We're ready," Nova confirms and Emma feels the no longer familiar 'whoosh' of Regina's magic begin to swirl around her face. Something smells a little like burning rubber in the dank air of the mines, but Emma breathes out slowly and tries to ignore it.
She isn't prepared for the scream.
Even with her eyes open, Emma isn't understanding the scene any better. Regina's grip on her hand is bone-crushing, and almost painfully hot where skin meets skin. Out of instinct, Emma attempts to pull away, but it's like being trapped in a vice.
"Regina!" She shouts, but Regina is staring, unseeing, at the rock wall straight ahead. Her eyes are flickering a gorgeous shade of purple, and Emma hasn't seen that since the day Neal died, setting all of this not-quite-punishment in motion.
"Nova!" Emma shrieks instead, but the fairy just looks panicked, floating around over the barrels where pale blue light is firing out of Regina's fingertips against the rough wood. "Do something! She's in pain."
"I didn't know this would happen," Nova shouts back, not leaving her post by the barrels. "Savior, can't you do something?"
But Emma can feel the magic almost completely drained from her body already, and it's already turning into the worst hangover she's ever had. Her arms and legs are trembling, teeth are chattering, and one minute she's burning up at Regina's touch, while the next she feels like she's turning to ice. Every effort is focused on distracting Regina, of pulling free from her grip, but Emma feels herself getting weaker while making no progress at all.
It's only when Henry runs shouting into the cavern, the fastest Emma's seen him move in five years, easily, that Regina's grip starts to loosen. Two barrels are filled, their lids being wrestled into place by Nova's wand, while the third seems close to full already.
"Mom!" Henry screams. "Emma, stop her! You have to stop her!" He's holding two white envelopes in his hand, a set of keys dangling from one finger. With one last surge, Emma finally pulls free of Regina, and they both collapse to the ground with less than graceful thuds.
"Mom, mom, mom!" Henry is on his knees in the dirt between them, shaking Regina gently but she looks as limp as a piece of lettuce from Granny's and that's the thing that makes Emma panic, makes her so desperately sad that she thinks she might vomit, right there on the ground.
"Henry," she manages to say. "How did you-"
"I went into her purse for some gum," he explains, not even looking at her. He's pressing fingers desperately against Regina's throat, looking for a pulse. Emma wonders when he learned how to do that; she sure as hell never taught him.
Emma sees her parents come running down the slope now, her Mom clutching her father's arm like it's the only thing holding her up. "I went into her purse for gum and there were these envelopes, and the keys to her car and the house with, like, a fucking bow on them," Henry says, not letting go of Regina even when Nova comes to help.
"Emma!" Snow cries out, falling to her knees now, grabbing Emma a little too roughly and checking her for visible damage. Emma can't quite form words yet, but she can already tell she's starting to feel better now that the magic is gone.
"'gina," Emma manages to choke out, her mouth drier than Death Valley.
There's a little thunderclap then, announcing a fairy arrival, and they find themselves confronted with Blue. Her hair is a mess, her nun's habit gone in favor of something that looks like a prom dress from the 70s. Emma can't be sure, but she'd bet her left leg the little bitch has been drinking.
"I'm sure Nova is just about to tell you," Blue begins. "But Regina is dead, my dears."
"No!" Henry shouts, in between thumps on Regina's chest and desperate breaths that do nothing.
"I assume that's why she got rid of me," Blue continues, smirking at Emma as she tries to get to her feet, both parents supporting her. "Because she knew I'd tell you the consequences of her spell."
"Regina had more faith in your ability to tell the whole truth than we do," Snow says.
"Why didn't you tell us?" David demands of Nova. He's actually shaking with something that might be rage.
"I didn't know," Nova admits, blushing and blinking back tears. "Regina made no mention of it when she found the spell."
"Mom," Henry keens, his hands finally halting. He leans down once more, presses a kiss to her forehead instead. Nothing happens, and that's when Emma feels the dam break inside her.
She can't be sure where the strength comes from, but she pushes them all aside until she's the one kneeling over Regina. She looks almost peaceful, laid out on the floor like that. Only a trickle of blood from her nose suggests she's doing anything other than sleeping.
"You should have told me," Emma mutters. Her voice is stronger now, her tongue no longer like sawdust in her mouth. "You knew better than that, Regina. No more having our lives changed by someone else making the decisions. Fuck," Emma knows she's practically shouting now, her own voice echoing back at her from the cavern walls. "If you'd asked me, I would have told you."
"Told her what?" Henry asks.
"That I'd rather be stuck here and hardly see her," Emma explains. "Than never get to see her again."
"She put the apartment in your name," Henry says. "The car in mine. There are instructions-"
"Stop!" Emma demands, still not quite able to make her trembling hands touch Regina. "No, I don't accept that. This is bullshit, Regina. Do you hear me? Bullshit."
Nobody responds, nobody even moves as Emma rubs her hands on the front of her jeans.
"Emma," Snow says, choking back tears. Emma can't understand why someone who still hates Regina would be crying right now, but there's a rock somewhere inside her chest making it hard to breathe, or think. Every time she swallows it feels like she's going to burst, and maybe it's just the sobs in the back of her throat, but she can't let it escape, can't give in to it.
"Fairy," Emma blurts, not caring which one answers. "Is all my magic gone?"
Nova steps a little closer, and waves her wand carefully over Emma's head.
"Yes, your Highness," Nova says, her voice barely audible. "She got it all."
"Dammit, Regina," Emma groans. "Why do you have to be so fucking good at everything?"
"Honey," David says, grabbing Emma by the shoulders. "She can't hear you."
"Dad," Emma is desperate now, her voice feels one word from giving out completely. "I can't-can you carry her? Up. Out of here, I mean."
He looks at Snow, because he always looks at her for that tacit permission, and nods. Emma scrabbles aside, Snow grabbing her arm, and David bends at the knee to gather up Regina's limp body from the dirt floor.
"Wait," Henry says, wiping at his eyes with the arm of his Columbia sweatshirt. "It should be me. Gramps. Let me."
Emma hates herself in that moment, for her shivering limbs that can barely hold her up, much less carry the woman she loves back towards the waning daylight. Her parents support her in unspoken agreement, two strong arms wrapped around her waist from each side, and they follow in Henry's faltering steps, an impromptu funeral procession.
They stumble out onto level ground, and Henry turns around, completely lost in the situation, not knowing what to do next.
"Lay her down, kid," Emma finds the words to say. "Gently."
There's only one thing left to try, and the resistance inside Emma feels as persistent and sticky as molasses. Once it's tried, once her last best hope is tried and fails, she has nothing left. Nothing but the prone body on the ground and a broken heart. She doesn't know how to ask for help with that fear, and couldn't make more words right now if she wanted to.
But Henry tried she tells herself, moving over towards Regina once more. Snow is still holding Emma's hand as she kneels, and she has to politely pull away from her mother in order to keep her balance. Henry loves her and he tried and nothing happened.
Emma looks at her son, and sees that same painful doubt radiating back at her.
But what had the book said? A person may only have one true love at a time. Although the maternal bond had been enough to save Henry, back then the only person he felt uncomplicated love for had been his birth mother. Now he loves them both, and they love him desperately, as only parents can.
What Emma is pinning her every hope on in this moment, is the one thing she finds so very hard to discuss.
She bows then, lips barely an inch from Regina's own. There's no hope of stopping the tears now, even though it feels like a violation to let them splash on Regina's cooling olive skin.
"I love you," Emma whispers. "And I know we never talk about it because we save all the best parts of us for Henry, but somewhere in all this leaving and hurting, I started to love you. And I know you love me back, Regina."
Snow stifles a sob somewhere over Emma's head.
"I know you do because you broke your own rules just to save me. I know you love me because you don't even sigh anymore when I wear a leather jacket way past when it's too cold for one. And because sometimes I whisper it when you're pretending to already be asleep, and I see your lips twitch like you're gonna say it back."
Henry kicks the ground then, sneaker toe grinding in the loose dirt as he cries quietly along with his grandmother. Emma doesn't really need to look up to know that her father will have joined in by now; this is a family that expresses its emotion by the gallon, after all.
"So here goes," Emma says, closing her eyes. She swallow, exhales, and presses her slightly-chapped lips against Regina's, smiling at the familiar matte finish of deep-colored lipstick, the smell of it somewhere between fancy perfume and kids' paints.
Emma presses her lips against Regina's and counts to forty, a second for every year Emma's spent on this earth.
She pulls back before she can fall completely on top of Regina, make an embarrassing scene that everyone else will have to live with. Emma's back on her feet and blinded by tears, reaching for her parents' waiting arms, desperately in need of comfort.
Which is exactly when a hand grabs her ankle and sends her hurtling towards the dirt.
"Mom!" Henry shouts, running to help her up. Only when a dazed Regina is in a sitting position does she release her grip on Emma's ankle.
"I-" Emma begins, trying to get up again. "I... just... Regina!"
"Yes?" Regina asks, all sweetness and light as Henry fusses over her.
"I'm so glad you're alive," Emma says through gritted teeth. "Because I'm absolutely going to kill you!"
Her lunge for Regina is intercepted by what might be an actual football tackle from David.
"Calm down," he warns, before helping Emma off the ground. "We don't need another death quite so soon."
The fairies have followed behind them, chattering in that quiet way they have that creeps everyone else the hell out.
"How?" Regina asks, looking at no one but Emma. "I took all your magic."
"As in so many ways," Blue explains. "Princess Emma is the exception. True love doesn't need magic to work; it didn't for Henry."
"But we were under a magic curse then," Regina snaps. "This world may not contain it but we were under a spell we brought with us."
"If the Princess can still do magic," Nova says, "then she must stay here in Storybrooke."
"No," Blue interrupts, stunning everyone else into silence. "She gave us all she had. Or all she thought she had. We've taken quite enough from her for one lifetime. Regina, too, for that matter."
"You let her kill herself to get my magic?" Emma demands. "And you think I'm going to walk away? That I'm going to be okay with that."
"It was my decision," Regina says, leaning heavily against Henry, looking more exhausted than Emma's seen her since the night Bae died and they banished Rumplestiltskin. "Though you'll forgive me, Reul, if I don't take you at your word?"
"You and Emma are both free to leave Storybrooke," Blue says, reluctantly. "And to return without restriction, as often as you like."
"This is no longer your decision," Nova interrupts, but Blue silences her with a flick of her wand.
"Consider this my last act of leadership," Blue says. "Now, Emma, do you want to go and pack?"
"I can help," Snow says. "And we'll come and visit you, lots. Don't feel like you have to come back here all the time."
Emma smiles at her parents, now that David has let her go and she's no longer straining to slap Regina. They've been so considerate in rarely leaving town while she couldn't, mostly only going to help with transferring Henry from one mother to the other.
"Is it okay..." Emma trails off, because she doesn't want to ask, to seem so desperate to be rid of them. "If Regina checks out and I'm okay, I thought we might just go, tonight. Even just as far as Boston."
"I'm fine," Regina insists.
"Good," Emma fires back. "Because we are going to have a very long discussion about who makes decisions for who, and-"
"Whom," Regina corrects automatically, already back to sounding bored.
"And the appropriate time to sacrifice yourself for my freedom. Which," Emma continues, marching right up to Regina and taking her face between two trembling hands. "If you were wondering, is never."
"You're so selfish about the Savior thing," Regina teases, but her dark eyes are slightly frantic as she searches Emma's face, noting the tear tracks and the dirt. "Let someone else have a turn sometimes."
"You thought you weren't coming back, Regina," Emma reminds her. "Legal documents and car keys? Don't you ever pull a stunt like that again."
"Yeah, Mom," Henry pipes up. He sounds a lot like the little boy who just found out his Mom tried to kill Snow White. "Listen to Emma on this one."
"I knew you wouldn't let me," Regina says. "And it really was the only way. Never again, I swear."
"Before you start making promises-" Snow says, but the truly legendary glare Regina gives her shuts that up in a second flat.
"What Snow meant was," David steps in. "Is that you should at least get checked out before driving. We can collect some things from the house if you want. Henry, are you going with your Moms?"
"Not tonight," Henry sighs. "Trust me, some things you want to keep your distance from."
"Henry!" Both Emma and Regina protest, talking over each other with invitations and reassurances.
"Go," he says when they finally shut up. "I'm coming down next week anyway."
"Emma," Snow says, taking her by the arm. "Promise me you'll be careful. The world has changed, even if only in the little ways."
"I bet," Emma says. "But you're forgetting I have 28 years more practice than any of you. I can handle a Monday night in Boston."
She feels herself drawn towards the truck as though by a magnet, it's impossible to resist now that freedom is so close.
"You're sure that line won't kill me?" Emma asks the fairies one last time.
"The enchantment is already broken," Reul assures her. Regina can test before you cross it. She'll have enough power to do that simple check."
"Well," Emma says, taking Regina's hand and pulling her towards the truck. "Let's go find out."
They detour long enough for Regina to shove Dr Whale away from her after a cursory exam, and it's as quickly as they can throw some basics in an overnight back before they're back in front of the house. Regina frets a little as they load the trunk, but Emma knows by now how to breathe through it.
"Henry will be fine here," Emma reminds her. "He looks after the house better than I ever have. And he said he'll bring more of my things, if I give him a list."
"I can't believe I'm here," Regina says, and she looks somewhere between relief and throwing up as she leans against the trunk of the Audi. "I was prepared to be gone and then you brought me back..."
"It's kinda my thing," Emma jokes, shoving her hands in her pockets now the two bags are loaded. "I was so scared. I know I don't get to see you that often, but the thought of never again? Damn."
"Such a romantic," Regina says, rolling her eyes. Emma wants to call her back from where she's about to get in the passenger seat, actually conceding control of the car to Emma, who's recovered much faster. She wants to tell Regina the stupid, romantic things she did say and have them be the kind of words they can give to each other, but the moment has already passed.
With a sigh, Emma slips into the driver's seat, moving the key towards the ignition before Regina's hand stops her, a light pressure on Emma's exposed wrist.
"When you saw my lips twitch," Regina whispers. "I was saying it back. Just... in my head."
"How did you-"
"Magic," Regina says, her old smirk firmly back in place. "It seems even when I'm quite dead, you can't get rid of me that easily, Miss Swan."
Emma laughs, and flicks the radio into life.
"You know, I used to miss it," she says, as they pull out onto the street again.
"What?" Regina asks, changing the station back to classical with her face a picture of disgust.
"Not knowing just what you're capable of," Emma explains. "But now? I'm pretty glad I know."
"Me too," Regina admits, settling back into her seat and crossing her hands in her lap.
The empty roads make it no time at all to reach the boundary, and Emma slows down out of habit.
"I-" she says, but Regina reaches for her hand and grips it. It's all the confirmation Emma needs. She takes a deep breath, presses down on the gas pedal, and just like the girl she was before showing up here to drop off a wandering kid, gets the hell out of town.