Disclaimer: I do not own Once Upon a Time or any recognizable characters.
AN: This was written for KateWallowie who was the 1000th reviewer of Incoming Messages. So in this one, Emma and Snow do still go through the events of FTL, but they get back in time for Emma to witness Regina magicking Daniel so much for the great prompt, and I hope you like it!
Emma held out her arms to accept the hug as Henry came barreling towards her. She hugged him tight, heart still racing from their encounter with Cora and Hook, which they barely escaped unscathed.
"I knew you could do it," Henry said muffled into her neck.
She kissed his forehead and stood up straighter, glancing around the forest slightly disoriented. "How did you guys know we'd be here?"
David approached them, draping an arm around his newly found daughter as they exited the forest. "Regina. She sensed an influx of magic at the well and at the stable, so Henry and I came here."
"What's at the stable?" Emma asked, keeping pace.
"What does it matter? We're all back together again, and whatever's there, we can take it," Snow announced proudly.
"We'll celebrate, tonight at Granny's."
"Yeah!" Henry agreed.
"I don't know about you," Emma removed David's arm from her shoulder and gave a side glance to Mary Margaret, "but I need a shower. I'll meet you guys."
She gave Henry a final hug before racing ahead of them. Lucky for her, her father had taken his truck and she was still adept at picking locks and hotwiring cars. With a screech of the tires, Emma sped off to the stables.
Her mind replayed what she had experienced in the last hour alone. Running through the Enchanted Forest, fighting Captain Hook alongside Mulan, and then feeling Cora's grasp on her heart, feeling the organ unnaturally move inside her as the older woman tried to pull.
Clearly Regina picked up that trick from mommy dearest, and if she knew Regina, then she knew there was something conniving going on in the stables, and she'd be damned if she didn't lock the woman up once and for all.
She made it to the stables, careful to keep her presence a secret when she walked into the barn, keeping to the walls. There was a presence here, someone other than Regina. Something not right. She froze just before her final turn when she heard sobbing and a quiet, desperate whisper. "But I love you."
Emma peeked her head around the corner to see Regina shaking her head, clutching desperately to a bloody, fevered looking man. He stared at her intently. "Then love again."
The blonde gasped when he groaned loudly, clutching his head in pain before he straightened suddenly, his sickly demeanor completely replaced with a cold, distant persona. He lunged for the Mayor, and Emma's hand automatically went to the waist band of her jeans where gun used to rest. She was about to step forward when Regina simply held her hand against his, her shoulders wracking with sobs as a thin blue field separated the man from the woman. Using her free hand, Regina waved it over him shakily, and little by little, he disintegrated into nothing but dust.
"Goodbye Daniel." Regina let out a heart-wrenching sob before collapsing on her knees to the floor, body shaking, her hand clawing at her chest.
Emma remained frozen, hidden from the brunette. This wasn't right. There was supposed to be evil here, not tears, not heartbreak. She could leave, pretend she didn't see anything, but the anguished moan coming from Regina made Emma walk forward cautiously.
Regina snapped her head up at the sound of Emma's loud boot. Her face was red and wet from the tears, there were red marks around her neck, and her hair was completely disheveled. She couldn't even muster enough strength to sneer. Instead, she just covered her face, bawling into her hands.
"Regina?" Emma asked quietly, kneeling beside the older woman. "Are you okay?"
Emma suddenly found herself pushed to the ground as Regina stood and glared, tears still falling. "Do I look okay, Ms. Swan!? Do you mistake these for tears of joy?"
The blonde gulped and stood slowly. She hit her back against the wall when Regina pushed her again.
"Of course all is well now that the Saviour is back," she spat out her title, pushing Emma again. "Just go! Just go back to your parents, go to the Enchanted Forest, just go!"
She gave the blonde another push, causing a hanging shovel to come tumbling down beside them. She hid her face in her hands again before moving to the opposite wall to attempt to stop the tears that showed her weakness in front of her nemesis. She tensed when she felt a pair of hands on her shoulders. Wiggling, she struggled as Emma attempted to turn her. "Don't."
The blonde was persistent, always keeping one hand on her despite Regina elbowing her. "Leave me alone."
Finally Emma managed to turn her, pulling the brunette's face into the crevice of Emma's neck and wrapping her tight in her arms. Regina stiffened, her hands on Emma's arms in preparation to push off when she felt soothing hands rub up and down her back. Like a crack in a dam building pressure behind it, Regina broke, clutching desperately to Emma's jacket, freely crying into the younger woman's neck as Emma held her all the more tighter.
Emma didn't speak. She just let the tears stain her jacket, she rubbed softly when Regina's breathing became laboured, and she clutched fiercely in a silent confirmation that she'd keep her safe every time the brunette moaned out a painful cry.
It wasn't until the brunette loosened her grip did Emma take the chance to speak. "Who was that?" Emma whispered.
Regina wiped the mascara from under her eyes and turned away, holding herself tight. "No one you know."
She turned back to the Sheriff and inclined her head as if finally realizing her presence. "Welcome back."
Emma shifted awkwardly from foot to foot, running a hand through her tawny and tangled hair. "Yeah, I uh, I met your mom."
The brunette stiffened, her eyes taking on that hint of fear. "You what?"
The blonde noticed and began contemplating just how much danger they were actually in. "She's a piece of work, you know?"
Regina nodded. "That I do."
"She tried to kill me," Emma stated bluntly.
"I'm not surprised." Despite the shift in conversation, Regina's voice remained shaky.
"She tried to rip my heart out."
Regina froze again, staring off to the side where she last saw Daniel. A fresh wave of loss crashed over her, and try as she did, Regina couldn't stop her quivering lip or her weeping eyes as she pressed a hand to her own chest, turning away as the tears came again.
"What did she do, Regina?" Emma asked, placing a reassuring hand on the brunette's shoulders.
Regina didn't have the strength to shrug her off. She just shook her head, silently sobbing.
"Regina," Emma tried again, soft yet persistent.
"She killed him!" The brunette yelled, turning and snapping at the Sheriff. "She ripped his heart out and crushed it in front of me."
Regina placed a hand over Emma's heart. "I watched her turn his heart into dust. I watched him die, and the worst part - I couldn't even bury him! I kept his body preserved but your grandfather took me away before I could even say goodbye."
She closed the gap between their faces and sneered. "But Snow got her mother, so who cared about a stable boy's funeral?"
Emma put her hand over Regina's, the hand that rested over Emma's beating heart. She took the brunette's wrist in her hands and led them outside.
Regina yanked her hand free. "The last thing I want to do is to be in the presence of your parents."
Emma just took the brunette's wrist again, holding it tighter as she led them to a lone Great Oak tree. She found a rather large rock on the way and placed it at the base of the tree and then motioned the brunette forward.
"What do you want to tell him?"
Regina gaped at her, her eyes still watering and her cheeks burning red hot.
"I can wait over there if you'd like?" Emma offered sheepishly.
The brunette directed her stare to the unmarked grave, holding herself tightly.
What did she want to tell him? The words raced through her mind a mile a minute. Apologies, regret, pleads. She wanted to tell him that she never forgot him, that everything she did, every plot, every scheme, every magic lesson was to avenge him. Every time a man would look at her, every time a man would touch her, it would never compare to the way he looked at her, the way Daniel touched her.
She didn't register when she fell to her knees in front of the rock, a hand placed over it as if Daniel himself lay buried under it.
They were supposed to be together forever. They were supposed to get married, have children, a boy like him, independent, determined, and kind, and a girl like her, adventurous, stubborn, and hopeful. She was supposed to be a seamstress while he looked after the animals, coming home to her every day, filling every night with kisses and hope, playing with their children by the fire.
She let out a pained scream recalling the night all her dreams were supposed to come to, the night her entire life came crashing down around her. He tried holding her back from her mother's wrath, and for the briefest moments of hope, she could see the small house in the forest, she could hear her children play with their father.
But when were the stars ever aligned for her?
Watching him die the first time felt like she herself had her heart ripped out, crushed to dust and carried away with the wind, forever looking for its owner. Being the hand that ended him this time, well that was just cruel.
She automatically leaned into the warmth that surrounded her when Emma kneeled beside her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and doing her best to stop the shaking.
"I love you," Regina croaked out, her fingers digging into the earth.
His voice rang out in her head, amplified, hollow and resonate.
Regina, love again.
Emma was never one to comfort people. Her motto was to stay away from anything that even had the potential to hurt her. If it managed to sneak past her defenses, she immediately shut off her feelings and found some distraction. But to comfort someone else? To comfort Regina? The idea was absurd.
But the feeling of the older woman under her arm, pressed desperately against her chest heaving uncontrollably, there was something about it that felt like the most natural thing in the world. She knew that whatever she said wouldn't change the fact that Regina lost the man she was mourning, the man Emma assumed was her love.
She didn't know how long they kneeled on the ground, firmly huddled together. She didn't know how Regina would react as soon as they left the stables to enter the real world. All she knew was that right now, this pained woman needed her, and Emma would be there for her. She'd be the first person to ever be there for her, and she was almost shocked to realize she didn't want it to be the last time.