CHAPTER 4: Equanimity
"There you are!"
Regina was already gripping the bars of her cell, looking cagey as Emma strolled in. Her eyes were wild and brows raised, and Emma knew that without the bars, there would be an invasion of space occurring right that very second.
"You drop a bomb like that in my lap and then leave?!"
She shrugged. "I wanted a second opinion."
Regina stared at her dubiously. "From whom?"
She knew she'd get an eye roll in return, but she couldn't help it. "Mary Margaret."
Predictably, Regina's eyes rolled skyward and then her head slid into a disbelieving tilt. "So it's come to this. The sheriff of Storybrooke needs to consult with Mommy before chasing a lead."
Emma rolled her eyes right back, hands on her hips. "I asked her opinion because she has experience with your mother. We both ran up against her in your old land, and it wasn't pretty."
"So you've said." Regina seemed to relax just slightly, less confrontation in her stance as her hands slid from the bars. "What makes you believe she's behind this?"
She sighed, making her way toward Regina's cell. "Let's just say it's not the first time she's fooled us into thinking she's someone else."
Regina's eyes searched hers. "Really."
"Mmhmm." She nodded, humming her affirmation. "That, and my gut instincts last night said that you were telling the truth. And this," she lightly jabbed at her gut, "is never wrong."
At that, the last bit of tension slipped from Regina's posture and she sat down on her cot, the muffin that was left there now nothing but a wrapper. She looked up with what Emma could only think to describe as a little hope in her expression. "So you're letting me go?"
"Not quite." Wanting to believe Regina was one thing - turning her loose when she could easily vanish into a puff of smoke was another entirely. "If I'm right and your mother is here somewhere in Storybrooke, then we need to know what we're up against."
One eyebrow arched upward, and Regina folded her arms, rising to her feet once again. "I thought you've seen what she can do."
Emma nodded. "And I have. But that's only the 'what.'" Off Regina's expression, she elaborated. "We need the 'why.'"
"And that's what you need me for."
"Yes!" She advanced toward the bars, gripping them slightly. "Do you have any idea why she would want to kill Archie?"
Regina gave that some thought, her teeth worrying her bottom lip ever so slightly while her pensive gaze held Emma's. After a moment, she replied, "I honestly don't know."
"You can't think of anything at all? Maybe something from your old land?"
Regina threw her hands up. "To my knowledge, she never even knew the cricket. And here... well, how could she possibly know who he is, or was?"
"I don't know. All we know is that she wanted to get back here to see you."
A puff of mirthless laughter burst past Regina's lips, and her fists landed on her hips. "Right," she muttered, shaking her head at the ground. "Because the curse was broken, so I must be as well. That's why she wants to see me. That's her favorite M.O. - break me down and then swoop in to fix it in her own, special way."
"So she killed Archie, as you, just to break you?" Emma's entire face contorted in a confused grimace. She knew Cora was twisted, but this, well... this was a whole new level.
Regina's eyebrows raised in an almost rueful expression and she sighed, "Wouldn't be the first time she's... gone to extremes, so to speak."
Emma watched as an entirely knew kind of tension took over Regina's body. Her hands clenched into fists at her sides, the skin across her knuckles stretching and turning white. When she uncurled them, her palms boasted pink, crescent-shaped indentations where her nails had dug in.
She raised her eyes, imploring Emma through her lashes. "You have to let me out of here."
"What?" She couldn't help the balking chuckle that escaped. "No way."
"How else are we going to get her to come to me? You think she's just going to pop by the sheriff's station for a visit?"
"There's gotta be some way to get her out into the open."
"Yes," Regina nodded emphatically, "There is." Then she jabbed her chest. "Me."
"Regina..." She couldn't help the sigh. "You know that I can't-"
"Why not?" she broke in, the faintest trace of belligerence in her tone. "You believe me. I know that you do. And if you don't, I want the chance to prove it."
"You're the prime suspect in a murder case. If I let you out, the entire town is gonna go ballistic." She shook her head. "No. Give me something to go on, here. Something that can prove your innocence and justify my letting you go."
Exasperated, Regina huffed and pushed off from the bars, spinning on her heel with her hands on her hips. Emma's eyes followed her, brows crinkling as she wondered whether or not she was about to get a patented Mayor Mills response, or if there was actual thought going into her request.
Finally, after what seemed like ages, Regina spun back again with large eyes. "What about scent?"
Emma's brows tipped upward. "Huh?"
"My scent. If I was seen going in to Archie's office, then my scent should still be there. Any scent dog worth its salt would be able to pick up at least a trace."
She tilted her head, expression sarcastic and skeptical. "Not sure if you've noticed, but we don't exactly have the budget for scent dogs around here."
"Perhaps not, but correct me if I'm wrong - is there not a wolf in our midst? Not to mention Pongo."
She threw up a hand in gesture as if to suggest 'go ahead,' her expression posing to Emma a challenge.
"He led you to me once. See if he can do it again."