A/N: This is a slow-burn love story about two damaged women trying to recover from the massive amounts of pain that they have each experienced in their lives. It's not an easy journey by any stretch of the imagination and there will be points that hurt terribly, but as you will soon discover, this is a path that will bring them both to a place of emotional healing and love (internally and externally).
Timeline: Post Ep 2x16 – The Miller's Daughter. Everything up until this point on the show is considered canon. Everything afterwards probably should not be considered so. Specific warnings will be supplied as needed in each individual chapter.
Other: Considering when this story was originally written (S2/S3), neither Hook nor Robin are involved in any way in the story. This updated draft won't alter that. Neal, however, IS in the story.
Thanks for the read! Enjoy!
It's Henry's idea.
Of course it is, she'll muse later over a swirling glass of red wine; it was the kid who had brought her to this town, and it'll be the kid who will somehow remind them all what family and home means. But that's for later. For now, there's…just madness.
The madness of his plan.
"I think we need to get her away from here," Henry says almost casually as he drops himself down onto the somewhat unbalanced wooden stool in front of the breakfast bar. He's frowning in the kind of thoughtful way that only a child his age can actually pull off. To her eyes, he looks hopeful, excited and a little pensive all at the same time. His dark brow is furrowed and she can almost see the wheels moving inside his head, each turning rapidly to connect with the next in order to bring together whatever his plan is.
"Get who away from where?" Emma asks in response as she leans across the counter towards him, propped up by her elbows. She hides a yawn behind the back of her hand, remembering for a brief moment the many years of not having to wake up so damned early in the morning because the majority of her job had taken place in the night hours.
She wouldn't give this up – wouldn't give up Henry or the family she's found – for anything in this or any other world, but that doesn't mean she doesn't sometimes miss the simplicity of the days before Storybrooke. The lonely ones before she'd been a sheriff and a mother and a daughter. All of those things separately and together.
She sighs to herself at the thought of what had once been, all while acknowledging that what she has now is so much better; sometimes what you think is comforting because it's the only reality that you understand isn't really much at all once you know better.
"Regina," he answers almost curtly, and she finds herself shifting anxiously at the not quite right use of his adoptive mother's first name. He doesn't give her much time to really consider her thoughts on this before adding, "We need to get her out of town."
"As in out of Storybrooke?" Emma presses, lifting an eyebrow. As she waits for his answer, she stands up straight and pushes an already poured bowl of cereal across the counter to him, then offers him a carton of milk. That she'd been quite proud of herself for not only thinking about breakfast for him, but also having it ready for him in advance of his school day is something that she keeps to herself. She's learning, she thinks.
A little bit more every day.
Henry shakes his head in the negative as he regards the milk. "I like it dry," he insists before reaching into the bowl in a way that she's dead certain that Regina has never ever allowed, and scooping up a handful of Fruit Loops. He crunches his way through the first handful and mouthful before he adds, "And yes, out of Storybrooke."
"You're a weird kid," she chuckles before retrieving the carton and soaking her own Fruit Loops to the point where the colorful little rings are pretty much drowning in the low-fat milk. She stirs the cereal for a moment, takes an oversized bite, swallows it and then asks in a intentionally (though deceptively) neutral voice, "Out of curiosity, what makes you think that she'd willingly go, well, anywhere with us? Me especially."
"She won't," he concedes between loud crunches. "So we have to kidnap her."
Emma coughs at this, just about spitting her entire mouthful of cereal and milk right back over the counter at him. Her eyebrows leap up into her hairline and her blue-green eyes widen almost comically in response. "Sorry," she apologizes. "It's just…I'm pretty sure that I didn't hear you right there because what I thought I heard you say was that you want the two of us to go batshit crazy and kidnap your already pissed off mother."
He nods his head sharply, even smiling as he does so. "No, you heard me right."
"Right; of course I did. " She sighs dramatically. "Okay, you know what, kid? Because I think I might be wrong and this isn't actually the most batshit crazy thing that I've heard since moving here – though, I have to say, it's pretty damned close - I'll play along. What would be the point of us kidnapping Regina and dragging her out of town?"
"We get her away from the magic. She can't get better while it's around."
He says this so simply and so matter-of-factly, like it's the most obvious answer in the world, and for just a moment, she wonders if maybe – just maybe – it actually is.
But then she shakes her head, her blonde hair swinging out a bit. "Henry…"
"I know what happened at Mr. Gold's shop," he tells her with more than a hint of impatience in his youthful voice. He reminds her for a moment of Regina – utterly unable to humor fools for even a few seconds before snapping. "I heard you talking to David before he and Mary Margaret left. I heard what happened with Cora."
"You weren't supposed to," Emma sighs.
"But I did," he states, that impatience still there. "And I heard David tell you that he's afraid my mom will do something terrible in retal…retaili…you know what I mean."
"Retaliation," she murmurs in response, choosing not to comment on the fact that he's started addressing Regina as his mother once again. Calling Regina by her given name was and is simply a defense mechanism for him and his conflicted heart. She nods her head as if to confirm his words. "Henry, your mom is angry right now. Really angry."
"I know that. And I know that she's really hurt right now, too. Thing is, Emma, when she's both of those, she does one of two things: if I'm around, she hides away in her office and gets really quiet and sad and cries a lot when she thinks I don't notice. But I do. And if it's anyone else that's around, she lashes out at them and is really mean."
"Really mean is one way to put it," Emma chuckles between bites of cereal.
He gives her a pointed look, one that says that he's in no mood for her attempts to derail the conversation with jokes. "She doesn't want to be that person," he insists.
"And you think that we – you and me - can help her not be it?"
He lifts his chin and looks right at her. "I think that we were helping her, and then we weren't and because of that, this happened." His voice lowers as he speaks, and then he's looking away, his lips curling into a frown. "We let her down. I let her down."
"Oh, Henry, no," Emma says, leaning across the counter once again so that she can touch his shoulder lightly. "What Regina does or doesn't do isn't your responsibility. No matter what you think, you're just a kid, and what happened isn't your fault."
"Isn't it? All she wants is me in her life. She was fighting for me to be there. She was fighting to be better…for me. If we'd believed her instead of Pongo, we would have been there for her and she wouldn't have given in to her mother. That's on us, Emma." He looks up at her with such big wide eyes, so full of hope and trust. So sure that despite his anger over her lying to him about Neal, she can help make this better.
She sighs, suddenly so very weary. "It's a whole hell of a lot more complicated than just that, Kid. Yes, we let her down – especially me – but some things have happened since the Archie incident. And some things happened before that, too. Your mom…Regina, she has done a lot of bad things in her life, and she's made a lot of bad decisions."
"I know. I also know that when she tried not to, we didn't believe her."
"Maybe so, but we're responsible for our own choices," Emma counters. "And if she wanted to be a better person, it needed to be for herself. Not just you. She couldn't."
"She tried," he says once again. "You've never tried and failed?"
She chuckles dryly at that, and just does manage not to start listing off the many times that yes, she has tried and terribly failed. Instead, her tone quiet and thoughtful as she carefully regards her determined son, "You're really serious about this, aren't you?"
"I don't want to lose either of you," he tells her, suddenly sounding so very young and innocent and terribly scared. He stirs his cereal around for a moment before continuing in an even more disturbingly quiet voice, "She's my mom and so are you, Emma. Despite everything she's done, I still love her."
"I know," Emma says immediately, almost urgently. "And I –"
"Have never told me that it's wrong to love her," he smiles softly at her. "I know. But I know what happens next. I've read the storybooks – I read my book again. While you were trapped in the Enchanted Forest. And I think I get it now. Maybe I didn't really understand it before, but now I do. I love her. I love you, too. You're both my moms. I don't want you to have to go after her because she went after Mary Margaret.
"And you think getting her away from Storybrooke will do...what exactly?"
"Maybe it will let her get all of her angry feelings out in a safe way. If she can't use magic and she can't hurt anyone, maybe she'll have to talk things out like she was doing with Archie before her mom screwed everything up. She won't talk to him anymore, but maybe if she doesn't have a choice, she'll talk to us. Maybe she'll talk to…me."
"Your mom's not much of a talker," Emma reminds him. "I think the only time that I've really gotten her to open up to me is…well…and I kind of blew that, didn't I?"
"Yeah," he allows. He shrugs, then. "So we keep her there until she does."
Emma laughs. "So let me get this right: not only do you want us to kidnap your mom, you want us to forcibly keep her from returning before we're ready for her to. That all?"
"Do I need to remind you that what you're talking about is actually illegal? I believe they call that false imprisonment," the sheriff reminds him with a smirk and a head shake.
"My mom is the Evil Queen," he reminds her.
"True, but that doesn't mean she's not entitled to her rights as a person."
"If she goes after Mary Margaret for tricking her into killing her mother, you're going to have to stop her or lock her up or even worse, maybe hurt her. I don't want that, Emma. So yeah, this is better." He looks up at her with fierce certainty shining in his bright green eyes. She wonders if she's a complete fool for listening to a child about matters such as these, and yet, beneath all of the naivety of his thoughts, she wonders if he has a point.
"You really do think I'm the Savior, don't you?"
"I know you are. You saved everyone in this town. Just one more person."
"She's the hardest of all to save," Emma tells him, and again wonders why she's having such an intense and adult conversation with her twelve-year-old son. The implications and intricacies of the situation are well beyond his years, and yet here they are discussing it like it's all so simple.
"Superman doesn't get to call himself that for saving kittens," Henry reminds her with an almost derisive scoffing sound accenting his words.
"All right, fine. So what's your plan? Besides the kidnapping part, I mean."
He shrugs. "That's where you come in; I'm just a kid, and really, I took care of the hard part by coming up with the kidnapping."
"Oh, now you're a kid."
"Was a kid twenty seconds ago, too," he reminds her with a smirk.
"Uh huh. You do understand that your mom might very well turn me into a toad for even attempting to do what you're suggesting here, yeah? And that's even if we're successful in…defusing her." It's an understatement of a word as far as those go, but she can't really come up with another one to so perfectly explain what they'll be attempting to do. Calm down an Evil Queen before she goes completely homicidal? Yeah, defusing a bomb sounds about right when you think of that way, she realizes.
"And why's that?"
"Because she trusts you."
"Okay, what have you been sniffing and where are you hiding it?"
"What?" Henry asks, giving her that weird look that reminds her that he's spent most of his life beneath Regina's insanely protective wing; he certainly has no idea about things such as huffing and drug addiction.
"Forget it," she mutters. "What would make you think Regina trusts me? Like you said, my believing in Pongo helped all of this to happen."
"But you couldn't have hurt her if she didn't care."
"I think you're reaching pretty far and pretty hard there, Kid, but fine, I'll take your word for it; leave it to me, I'll figure something or other out."
"I knew you would, Emma."
"So, uh, does this mean you've decided to forgive me for lying about Neal?"
"I guess so. I just…I don't want to be lied to. I may be only twelve years old, but I'm not a little kid anymore. I see and hear more than you all think I do."
"I know, and for what it's worth? I get it. I remember wishing people would just be honest with me for once, too. I used to think that all the time when I was your age." She sighs, running her hand through her hair. "Look, I am sorry. I thought lying to you about your dad was the right thing to do at the time. I was angry and I justified it. But that doesn't make it okay. I know you've probably heard enough lies for a whole lifetime."
He smiles at her as if to confirm her words, then jumps up off the stool. He points at the soggy mess that is her cereal. "That's disgusting."
"What do you know? You have no style," she shoots back.
"Enough to know you're not supposed to drown your cereal." He shakes his head, and she's again reminded of the fact that Regina had raised him for the first eleven almost twelve years of his life. The way his eyebrow arches up as he regards her food choices, disdainful and almost haughty and full of all-knowing judgment. Yeah, he's Regina's kid.
"Whatever," she drawls. "Go get dressed for school."
"School," she confirms. "I'll figure out what to do with Regina, but until I do, you are going to class, and if I find out that you skipped…"
She lets that hang for a long moment because honestly she's not at all sure what she would do; being the tough mom has never been one of her skillsets, and they're both more than a little bit aware of this. He gives her a look that tells her that he sees right through her attempts to muscle him, but then bobs his head forward as if to humor her.
"Fine," he says, then turns and heads up the stairs.
She waits until he's gone and sighs loudly once again, all the while stirring the cereal soup around in the bowl. It's been a long last forty-eight hours. Two days earlier, Snow had crossed a line when she'd chosen to manipulate Regina into killing her mother. That Cora had needed to be stopped - perhaps even permanently – is beyond dispute as far as Emma is concerned; unchecked, the woman would have certainly killed all of them.
But that doesn't justify putting more blood on Regina's hands.
Snow and David are elsewhere; he'd taken her to the house they've been looking at for the last couple of weeks. It's somewhere where they'll be mostly left alone so that they can try to deal with what she's done in a way that won't bring on a lot of attention.
Regina, though she's back at her Mansion according to Red. What she's planning all alone in the loud silence and solitude of her own thoughts is anyone's guess, but it's not hard to imagine that her intentions are likely bloody and horrible. She's a badly wounded woman and daughter right now with a lot of pain and anger. She's essentially someone who has been backed into a corner feeling like they have nothing to lose.
That's dangerous for everyone.
And this damned blood war has gone on long enough.
It's time for it to end.
So apparently, she is going to help Henry with his wild insane absurd idea.
Apparently, she's going to kidnap an Evil Queen.