CHAPTER TWENTY NINE
Knuckles rapped lightly on the bedroom door that was just slightly ajar. The woman situated between the sheets and the duvet looked up at the sound, placing her book down on the bedside table before taking off her glasses. "Hey," Emma said softly in greeting, giving Regina a small smile as she entered the room.
"How did it go?"
"He, uh… he decided he wants to see him," Emma answered as she sat next to the other woman, being careful to keep herself at a respectable distance. They might be in a slightly better place now, but things were still very fragile, and as such it was probably better that they didn't let anything distract them. And being close to Regina? Well, that had always proven to be pretty damn distracting. Emma worried her bottom lip though, still not entirely sure that doing this whole thing with Henry now was the best idea, and Regina's brow creased as she assessed her demeanor.
"You still don't approve," she noted.
"Honestly, I'm surprised you do."
"Believe me, dear, I do not approve of even that man's existence in the slightest, but delaying the inevitable isn't going to change anything," Regina answered with a small sigh of relentment. "We both know that Henry was going to choose to see him eventually, because he's a curious child and that would have won out in the end. I'm merely—"
"No, trust me I get why we should just get it over with," Emma responded. "And I get the whole 'killing two birds with one stone' thing when it comes to us needing a babysitter so we can have our talk. But… don't you think we should wait at least another day? We have so much shit going on tomorrow already with Gold—"
"I would rather we have that talk as soon as possible," Regina told her in a clipped tone, still ruffled over the fact that Emma had gone to Gold without her permission. That had already been discussed earlier though – or rather talked about in loud, angry tones – but in the end Regina knew they had no other choice, as she didn't know the spell that they needed to find out whether or not this whole curse business was true. "Whatever Rumple does or does not prove tomorrow morning is irrelevant to that, and should it bear discussion, we can do that at a later date."
"Regina," Emma implored with a soft sigh. "I think you're prioritizing things a little backwards, here. If one of us is cursed—"
"It changes nothing," Regina interrupted firmly. "Life will go on as it always has; miserable and bleak. And yes perhaps we could find a way to change that should we know who is responsible – if anyone is in fact responsible for it at all – but it isn't as though the world is going to implode should we become aware of it. It can wait, Emma; but we… we can't."
Emma frowned. "It's not like we're on the edge of a cliff, Regina—"
"We are," Regina insisted, looking so anxious and panic-ridden that Emma felt a little disoriented by it, because it was though they had completely switched roles. The session they had with Archie seemed to make her a bit calmer, more accepting of their relationship, but as the hours passed since they all spoke, Regina only seemed to grow more frightened by what was now looming over their heads, threatening to either complete or utterly destroy them. "There's still a lot you don't know about me, and should we put off this conversation then it's likely we'll never have it at all. We do that, Emma, and you know we do; we ignore important things in favor of having brief moments of happiness, but I think we've proven time and time again that that doesn't work. We need to do this, and we need to do it soon."
Emma bit the inside of her cheek as she looked at the woman sympathetically. While she understood Regina's point, as they did do that more often than not, it was as though Regina was just trying to barrel through something that clearly frightened her just so she could get it over with; maybe even because she believed that Emma would never truly be able to forgive her after knowing everything, and so she wanted to have the other shoe drop before she allowed herself even a small semblance of happiness. Which conflicted pretty badly with what Emma wanted, as she was afraid of the same thing; but instead of just getting it over with, she'd rather prolong it with the hope that should everything come crashing down, then at least she was able to be happy for a brief moment.
But the blonde sighed softly, knowing that if nothing else, she probably owed Regina this. For so long she'd been selfish in their relationship, doing things because they made things easier for her, and not caring whether or not it did the same for Regina. And maybe it was for a stupid reason, but after realizing that she loved Regina for her and not because fate dictated that she should, Emma felt like she had to really try now; because this was real, not something fabricated. And that… that was rare; that was special. "Fine," Emma relented. "I'll call Neal in the morning and let him know."
Regina exhaled a small breath she probably didn't even realize she had been holding. "Thank you."
Emma nodded, her own anxiety over the conversation beginning to spike and yet trying desperately to ignore it. They had to do this, and maybe Regina was right to want to get this over with sooner rather than later. Maybe if they had to break up… it would hurt less this way; and maybe if they didn't, then they had more time to be happy, instead of constantly being anxious about the weight of Regina's terrible secrets. Either way, she supposed they would find out tomorrow.
Emma released a long breath as she moved from Regina's side. "Anyway, I should probably get to bed—"
"Did you—" Regina began, looking up at Emma and making her pause before she stood. "Did you tuck him in, or should I…?"
"Nah, I got it," Emma assured her. "Why it took so long; he wanted a story before bed." Scrunching up her face, she waved her hand a little as she amended, "Well, sort of."
"Yeah, he…" Emma smiled softly as she revealed, "kinda wanted to be the one to tell a story tonight; of the Evil Queen and the Savior's happily ever after."
Regina's eyebrows rose in surprise as a conflicting range of emotion flickered over her features. Emma understood how she felt; like on one hand it was sweet and both of them hoped that Henry's optimism would win out, but on the other it might turn out to be terrible if he's so invested in their relationship and all it ends up doing is falling apart. But instead of bringing all that up, Regina just schooled her features and asked curiously, "Oh? And how did that go?"
"Well we lived in Disney World, for one."
Regina snorted and Emma cracked a smile. "That sounds more like Henry's happy ending then ours."
"Yeah well, every kid wants to live in Disney World, can you blame him?" Emma responded with a chuckle. Smoothing out the duvet beneath her, Emma bit her lower lip for a moment before looking up at the woman next to her. "Do you think we should maybe… bring him? You know, like after we're all settled and everything. He'll finally be out in the real world; maybe we should let him take advantage of that."
"You want to us to take a vacation… as a family?" Regina asked softly, uncertainty mixed with fear and hope swirling so deeply behind her darkened eyes that Emma had to look away from the intensity of them. She shrugged noncommittally.
"I don't know. Maybe. If we're… if things are—you know, better, or whatever. Yeah. Why not?"
Regina pursed her lips to try to hide the intensity of her smile as she looked up at her. "That sounds… fun. I think Henry would enjoy that." Emma nodded her head, picking at the bed sheets a little shyly before Regina added somberly, "But we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves. We don't know what the next day or week or month is going to bring…"
"No, I—I know," Emma assured her, meeting Regina's gaze. "It was just an idea. We obviously don't have to decide anything right now; we got too much other shit going on. Just thought it'd be a cool thing to do; maybe in the summer or whatever, if things are… you know." Shaking her head, Emma rose from the bed to head towards the door. "Anyway, I should…"
"Yes, it's—it's getting quite late," Regina finished for her, but didn't look all too thrilled about Emma leaving to stay in the guestroom, and truth be told, Emma wasn't either. She wanted to be close to the woman she realized she truly loved, despite all the rockiness still present in their relationship, but sharing a bed tended to lead to other things; especially after the emotional rollercoaster of a day they just had. And Archie… well, he basically had put them on sex probation.
So separate bedrooms it was.
"Night, Regina," Emma said softly as she leaned against the doorway, hand hovering over the light switch on the wall until Regina gave her a slight nod, and Emma switched it off. The room delved into darkness and as she turned, Emma really wished that she didn't have to crawl into a cold bed all alone. In the end though, at least it seemed like she wasn't the only one who didn't favor the separation right then as a soft, wistful voice carried into the darkened hallway.
"I'm warning you once; if you try anything, I swear to God I will scatter parts of you so far across this town that there won't even be a hope of putting you back together for your sad little funeral."
"So distrusting," Gold chided through a chuckle, looking more amused by Regina's threat than anything else. He did however, pause his hand mid-air in offering to Emma, instead of merely grabbing for it like he was previously intending to do. "Might I remind you, that this is a favor you called in? If you would like, I could walk out of this house right now and leave you to your cursed fate; it's up to you."
"Emma called this in, not me," Regina reminded him sternly. "Quite frankly I still have my doubts that there even is a curse." Eyes flashing, she began to advance on him. "It would be so easy for you, wouldn't it, to just use something like that as an excuse to get close enough to Emma; to take whatever power she has inside of her and leave her with nothing? After all, my life has been terrible, so why not use that as an excuse…?"
"You forget, dearie; I was not aware of Emma's ability until after I suggested there could be a counteracting curse," Gold told her, which promptly caused Regina's gaze to shift towards Emma for confirmation, who nods. That little piece of information only came about when they realized Gold could do nothing from his side of the barrier, which was due to his theory that a counter curse was prohibiting it from breaking correctly.
Regina scowled, still looking untrusting, but said nothing.
"Besides, it's doubtful that whatever's inside of the Sheriff that allows her to be used as a conduit would even work the same should it be drained from her; therefore she's worth far more to anyone alive than dead," Gold added with a smirk, obviously just trying to rile Regina up, which the woman played into without a second thought.
"If you so much as—!"
"Alright, enough!" Emma exclaimed, stepping between the two to separate them. She was already in a mood from having to deal with her parents this morning, which she was so not ready for, and the last thing she needed right now was the two of them fighting. It wasn't like they had a lot of time to do this before Snow and David came back, and the entire point of them even taking the kid out for breakfast in the first place was so they could safely get this done without Henry in the house. "Gold, stop being a dick. Regina, I can take care of myself. Now can we just get this over with please? Christ."
Regina didn't even look at her, she was still just glaring at Gold, but the man did turn his attention towards Emma as he shot her what could only be classified as a creepy smile and held out his hand once more. "As you wish."
Emma roughly clasped their hands together, setting her lips into a tight line.
The man then pulled out what looked like something straight out of Harry Potter from his inside coat pocket, and Regina was immediately on the defensive again. "What the hell are you doing with a fairy wand?" she demanded.
"Fairy magic is the only thing that can detect a curse, dearie," Gold answered, though his tone was more condescending than anything else. "Or would you prefer it if I just guessed?"
"Wait a minute, then why the hell do we need you?" Emma asked, realizing that this confrontational situation probably could have been avoided entirely. "We could have just gone to Blue."
"Ah yes, I believe the good fairy would bear no issue with helping the Evil Queen, don't you?"
Right, okay… maybe not.
"I hope you both are aware that this will in no way give you all of the answers you seek," Gold warned them as he held the wand near Regina's head, apparently deciding to do her first. "Although any magic will leave traces of its caster – a fingerprint, if you will – it is unlikely I will be able to identify it; knowing how someone's magic feels usually only comes from intimate experiences, and it's doubtful I've ever been involved with whoever did this."
Emma wanted to ask, "What about Regina's mom?" because well, she could easily read between the lines of Henry's book – and they totally had some kind of kinky student/teacher thing going on back in the day – but she was pretty sure Regina would pop an aneurysm at the insinuation and so Emma did nothing but purse her lips and stay silent. Besides, it didn't really make sense that it would have been Cora anyway; for one, she seemed too ambitious on Regina's behalf to hinder her in any way, and for two, apparently the curse would have died with its caster, and as far as Emma was aware, the bitch was dead.
"Just get on with it," Regina clipped impatiently, her hands resting on her hips to try to offset her nervous fidgeting. It seemed she wanted to know as badly as she didn't want to know, and Emma bit the inside of her cheek as she watched her sympathetically. She hated that someone could have done this to her; deserving of it or not.
Gold then moved the wand downwards over Regina's form, almost if he was trying to scan her. But Emma felt nothing, nothing at all, and Gold must have realized he wasn't pulling anything from her as a flicker of frustration shown in his eyes and he moved the wand downwards once more, almost in an aggravated huff as he tried again. Nothing happened.
"What's wrong? Why is nothing happening?" Regina asked, confusion masking over her face as Gold's expression began to grow a little more frustrated.
"It isn't as though syphoning magic from someone in an already unstable magical environment is easy, Your Majesty. Perhaps a little patience is in order."
"It's easy for Regina," Emma pointed out, which seemed to only aggravate Gold further as he tried once more. But his emotions were starting to get the best of them and instead of his magic figuring out whether or not Regina was cursed, the armchair in the corner of the room burst into flames.
"Jesus Christ!" Emma exclaimed, nearly jumping out of her own skin. Regina, thankfully, had a much quicker and much better reaction as she slapped Gold's hand out of Emma's before taking it in her own, distinguishing the flames. It wasn't quick enough though, and the chair was charred and ruined.
"I liked that chair!" Regina raged, furious.
"Apologies," Gold responded, although he didn't sound very sorry at all. He sounded ticked off. "But it seems I still cannot control my magic, even with the Savior's help. I'm going to assume that whatever it is that allows you to control it when you touch her is only reserved for you; perhaps due to her being your True Love, but I'm uncertain."
Regina actually looked relieved by this prospect – as she had worried what others might do should they be able to use Emma for their own gain – but Emma threw up her hands in frustration. "So now what?"
"Just give me the spell," Regina demanded. "And the wand, should it be vital to casting it; I can do it myself."
"The book is in my shop," Gold informed her. "As I wasn't expecting it to be needed, I didn't bring it. Perhaps if you come by later—"
"Later isn't an option," Regina told him, her patience quickly running out as she quickly grabbed a hold of both of their arms. And then suddenly they were in Gold's shop, a puff of smoke signifying their arrival as Emma's stomach lurched uncomfortably and she swayed on her feet, not used to traveling like that in the slightest.
"God, I feel like I'm gonna puke."
"Then please do so in a waste bin, dear; I'd rather not get the cleaning bill."
Emma rolled her eyes as she leaned on Gold's counter, trying to breathe through the nausea. She didn't know how they used to do this all the time, but maybe they were just used to it.
"Correct me if I'm wrong, Your Majesty, but aren't you supposed to be under house arrest?" Gold questioned, a challenging eyebrow being raised in her direction as he headed towards his bookshelf.
"Then perhaps this is something that would be better kept to yourself," Regina countered. "Unless you wish the Charming idiots to throw me back over the line before we can find a way to break the original curse correctly."
"And why should I care about that?" Gold challenged, his fingers dancing along the spines of old books as he searched for the one that was needed. "I have my son already, after all."
"Please," Regina scoffed, rolling her eyes. "It kills you that you can't access magic; especially when I can. Breaking the curse will once again put us on even footing; whether it be with magic or none at all."
Gold said nothing, probably because he didn't want to admit that it bothered him. Instead he pulled a book from the shelf and turned, placing the heavy object on the counter with a soft bang. Opening it, he found the spell in record time before pushing it towards the brunette. "This is what you're looking for."
Emma peered down at it. "You can read that?" she asked in surprise; it just looked like a bunch of weird symbols to her.
"Spells are not meant to be read, Miss Swan," Regina told her, as though she were speaking to an ignorant child rather than her on again, off again romantic partner. Emma scowled at her tone, but Regina just picked up the book and instructed as she took her hand, "Get behind me; I don't want you inhaling it."
"Inhaling…?" Emma began to ask, looking perplexed as she took a couple steps backwards. But before she could finish the question she got her answer, as Regina blew across the pages of the book and the words – symbols, whatever – literally flew off the page in a puff of smoke. The woman inhaled it through her nose, eyes closed as she took it all in, and when she opened them again Emma had to stifle a gasp at the swirls of purple behind her eyes and the look of pleasure etched across her face.
It was kind of terrifying honestly, but it was also sexy as all hell. Regina almost looked like she got off on it, and it did things to Emma that she was supposed to be suppressing. Biting her lower lip, Emma shifted the weight between her feet as she said uncomfortably, just to break the silence more than anything else, "I feel like I just saw you snort a line or something."
"Mmm," Regina hummed as her eyes fluttered closed again for a brief moment, apparently still feeling the effects of the spell. Emma scrunched up her nose.
"Ooookay. Getting kinda weird with Gold in the room…"
The man was staring at her with this gleeful little smile on his face, like he was a drug dealer watching a client become addicted, and was beginning to get excited about it because it meant more money for him. It was seriously creepy; not to mention really awkward considering Regina looked like she just came in her freaking pants.
"Sorry," Regina apologized, the word sounding wispy as she opened her eyes once again, showing Emma they had returned to a normal color. "It has just… been awhile; I forgot how intoxicating new spells can feel. I didn't—it wasn't my intention to make you feel uncomfortable, and I apologize."
"…Right," Emma responded flatly, not really liking the line that was being toed here. Regina told her once that she had become addicted to magic, but it had seemed – up until right now anyway – that she had a handle on it; she was able to do stuff in moderation and not let it get out of control. The raw pleasure that fell across her face at learning a new spell however made Emma feel a little uneasy, because despite Regina handling her issues far better than Emma handled her own, an addiction was still an addiction, and there was still the possibility of taking things too far should they start to feel far, far too good. "Let's just get this over with."
Regina murmured in agreement before holding out her hand towards Gold, who placed the wand in her hand. "Allow the wand to guide you," Gold instructed. "The spell you learned was solely so you could use something designed for the Fae; it is the wand itself which holds the power to give you the answer you seek."
As Regina held the wand hesitantly in her hand, seemingly suddenly afraid of a real answer, Emma bit her bottom lip before asking, "…Maybe you should do me first?"
"To what end?" Regina asked. "You know as well as I that should one of us be cursed, the likelihood is that it's me. You're the favored child of Snow White and her idiot prince; no one despised your existence save me, and I certainly didn't curse your mother's womb."
Right, because she wanted to steal her as a baby and raise her as her own, and a curse on the child she wanted would have probably been counterproductive to that goal. Which was still really weird by the way, but Emma tried not to think about it; she had enough insane shit going on as far as mothers were concerned, like Mary Margaret being the same age as her. Still, Regina was probably right as far as the likelihood was concerned, and Emma hated that because it kind of made it seem like Regina was alone in this, which she was not.
"Fine, just… do it," Emma responded softly, nodding her head at her as she took hold of Regina's hand once more. The brunette took a deep breath as she prepared herself for the worst, before finally allowing the wand to trace the outline of her body.
Emma's phone rang.
"Shit," she breathed as she looked at the flashing name on the screen: Mary Margaret. Regina stopped mid-motion, halting the spell as she looked at her in confusion. "It's my mother."
"What's wrong?" Regina asked, eyes widening in worry. "Is it Henry?"
"I don't—" Emma tried, because how the hell was she supposed to know when she hadn't even answered the phone yet? But she just shook her head and told her, "Hold on." Putting the phone up to her ear, she answered, "Hello?"
"Emma, where are you?"
"What do you mean, 'where am I?'" Emma responded in a confident tone, despite her gaze meeting Regina's with an 'oh shit' look on her face. "I'm at home. I mean— I'm at Regina's; we haven't gone anywhere."
"Then why haven't you been answering when we called for you?" Mary Margaret countered. "Surely even if you were upstairs—"
"We are," Emma quickly lied, because what the hell else was she supposed to do? If they found out Regina left the house, shit was going to go down. "We're uh… in Regina's room, doing… I don't know—things, alright? We'll be down in a second."
Before Mary Margaret could respond, Emma quickly hung up the phone and looked at Regina. "We gotta go. Now."
Gold looked like he was about to protest, but Regina turned to him as she grabbed ahold of Emma's hand once more, telling him, "We'll return the wand after we complete the spell." And then, before Gold could tell them that he wasn't going to allow them to just take his property, the two women were gone in a puff of purple smoke, materializing in Regina's room.
Emma practically fell onto the bed face-first, groaning from the nausea.
"Get up," Regina hissed, grabbing Emma's arm to pull her to her feet. "If your mother sees you on my bed—"
Mary Margaret chose that moment to practically slam open the door, looking like she was on some kind of mission. However, she apparently didn't expect to see the two of them actually standing in Regina's room, because she stopped short and began to look embarrassed by her own actions.
"What on earth do you think gives you the right to just barge into my bedroom?" Regina snapped, letting go of Emma's arm.
"I… I'm sorry," Mary Margaret stumbled, her hand still gripping tight on the doorknob. "I was just… worried. I know you both were meeting with Gold today, and after no one answered when we yelled upstairs, I just thought—"
"Well we're fine, Mary Margaret," Emma told her firmly, despite knowing 'worried' was probably a lie. She looked determined to catch Regina in the act of doing something wrong, more than frantic that something could have happened to her daughter. "We were just… preoccupied, and didn't hear—" But at the word 'preoccupied' the pixie haired brunette noticeably blanched, making Regina smirk in amusement while Emma assured her, "No! Not like—that wasn't what we were doing."
"Oh come now, dear; we're all adults here. Surely your mother would understand needing a little 'us' time…" Regina purred, being purposely antagonizing to the woman who had barged into her bedroom uninvited. Mary Margaret looked horrified; Emma looked exasperated. Regina smirked as she slipped past the woman in her doorway and finished, "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go attend to my son."
"Regina…" Emma whined, rubbing her forehead as the woman left. She didn't look back however, and Emma was stuck with her mother who, despite knowing that she and Regina's sexual relationship hadn't ended when they broke up, still looked absolutely horrified by the prospect that it could have happened not ten minutes prior.
Emma sighed heavily as she slumped against the wall, wishing that for once the two of them would just stop antagonizing each other; but that would just make things way too easy, wouldn't it?
It ended up taking a fair bit of convincing to assure Mary Margaret that that wasn't what they were doing upstairs (although in the end, was it any of her business if they were?) before Emma finally addressed the real reason her mother had been hanging around for so long after dropping Henry off, and assured her that yes, they would most definitely talk again at some point about how they left things during their last conversation. Emma understood that her own insecurities weren't entirely her parents' fault, and after everything that had happened with Regina that day, it just seemed like one shitty situation on top of another and she just exploded.
She owed them a chance to explain themselves, and she owed it to herself to actually listen for once.
Neal came by the manor promptly at six o'clock to take Henry out to a movie, followed by a burger at Granny's so they could have a chance to actually talk afterwards, and as expected, Regina immediately went into defensive mommy mode. She ended up giving Neal a list – an actual list, mind you – of approved movies that he could see, along with a full rundown of Henry's dietary needs, before informing Neal in a subtle yet effective way that if he didn't have their son back by ten o'clock then he would lose the ability to procreate.
Neal looked like he didn't know whether to be pissed off or scared by her threat, but at least he had chosen to forgo an argument once Henry came downstairs to greet him. And God, that was… difficult to watch. On one hand, Emma wanted to be happy that Henry was finally connecting with his father, but on the other, she was still so afraid that once Neal got a taste of parenthood, he was going to bolt in the other direction and leave Henry with nothing.
But what could they do now? What was done was done, and now all they could do was hope for the best.
"So," Emma said softly as she leaned against the wall, trying desperately to ignore the sudden bout of anxiety that had gripped her chest at the thought of what was to come. "Where do you want to… do this?"
For all of Regina's insistency that they get this conversation over sooner rather than later, now she looked just as panicked as she twisted her hands together and shifted the weight between her feet. Her gaze shifted to her left. "The study, perhaps?"
Emma gave a slight nod in agreement before following the brunette into the other room, awkwardly stuffing her hands into her pockets as she kept her head down. But before she slumped into one of the chairs near the fireplace, Emma turned towards the other woman and asked, "Are you… sure you want to do this now? I mean we have the spell to do, and maybe—"
"The spell can wait."
Emma's eyes fell on Regina, who looked a little lost as she momentarily stopped where her decanter used to be. The manor had been devoid of alcohol ever since they returned however, so Regina's habitual movements halted as Emma's stomach twisted uncomfortably in her gut before looking away. She didn't want to think about drinking, even though out of every conversation they've ever had, this one would probably require it the most.
"Do you… want me to get you some ice tea, or…?" Regina tried instead, fumbling through awkward pleasantries despite the fact that with them, they really weren't needed anymore. Still, maybe it was easier to fall back on old habits.
Emma chewed absentmindedly on her bottom lip before finally slumping into one of the armchairs with a heavy sigh. She didn't know what to ask; she didn't know where to begin. Her gaze found Regina, who was still standing rather awkwardly over by her desk, like she didn't know what to do with herself. "Do you want to sit down?" Emma tried, but Regina just shook her head as she exhaled a long breath.
"I'd rather stand."
Maybe it made her feel more in control in a situation where she had absolutely none, so Emma didn't argue. It must be nerve-wracking for her, to practically wait for an interrogation. Problem was, Emma didn't really want to interrogate her. Yes, they needed to talk about things, but it was the very last thing that she ever wanted to do. Emma just wanted things to magically get better, but apparently that wasn't an option.
Silence fell over the room for a long moment.
Finally, Emma looked into the flames of the fireplace and said, "You… mentioned the other day, about the curse?" Regina was silent as Emma picked invisible lint off her jeans, just to give her hands something to do. "That you… you lost the two most important things in the world to you in order to cast it."
"I did," Regina confirmed softly.
"…What were they?"
Regina was silent for a moment, the only sound in the room being the nervous clicking of her nails against the surface of her desk. "In order to cast a curse of that magnitude, a sacrifice was required," she responded, tone low and eyes downcast. "I needed to… cut out the heart of the thing I loved the most; it was the only way the spell would succeed."
Great, more murder.
Emma closed her eyes as she ran her hands over her face, wondering how this, how any of this, was going to be okay. "Who did you kill?" she asked finally, the words forcing their way out of her throat despite not wanting to know at all.
Regina swallowed. "I… Do you—do you remember when I told you about my horse?"
Emma looked over at her, brow furrowing. She had assumed Regina had killed a person, not a pet. But she nodded, remembering the conversation they had when she was detoxing. "Yeah."
"As sad as this may sound, Rocinante was… he was my best friend," Regina explained softly, a pained look crossing over her face. "I wasn't allowed friends growing up, and as such, my horse was the closest thing to a companion for me. I loved him as though he were my family."
"But…?" Emma asked, sensing there was an amendment coming.
"But," Regina continued with a soft sigh. "It… it wasn't enough, and in the end I had sacrificed him for nothing. I had thought perhaps… because my love for him wasn't tainted—"
"I loved my family," Regina tried to explain, although it sounded like just the thought of it was tiring to her; like that love weighed her down. "But I also hated them for certain things that I… seem to have never fully gotten over. I thought that resentment would cause the spell not to work, but it seemed I was mistaken; perhaps because, in the end, we were bound by blood, and blood magic had always been quite powerful."
Bound by blood… "So wait, you killed one of your family members?" Emma asked, wracking her brain to try to remember who Regina said she was related to, save her mother and father. But there was no one, and after remembering that Regina had said Cora was dead, she asked, "Was it your mother?"
As terrible as it sounded, Emma wasn't quite put off by the idea of it. Yeah, killing people was fucking horrible, but she also knew that Cora used to abuse Regina. In a way, that kind of… justified it.
"No," Regina corrected, shaking her head. "My mother… I had banished her to Wonderland on my wedding night, and a few weeks before I cast the curse I feared that she would find a way to come here with me, or perhaps that the curse would sweep that land as well. As such, I… I hired an assassin to take care of her."
"You… what?" Emma asked, blinking heavily. Hiring an assassin; that was… hardcore. And not in a 'bad ass' way at all, it was just a… really thorough way to take care of a problem. And in knowing that Regina didn't have any issue with taking lives back then, the fact that she didn't want to face Cora and kill her herself ended up speaking volumes.
She was terrified of her.
But then suddenly Emma remembered something, a conversation she had overhead in the town's singular jail cell when Regina had shared it with… "Hook," Emma realized, looking up at her. "You sent Hook to kill your mother?"
Regina pursed her lips and nodded.
"And he actually managed to?" Emma asked, sounding surprised. Because seriously, the man didn't look that capable, and even with her minimal knowledge of Cora and the power she held, it seemed like a bit of a stretch.
"…Yes," Regina answered, although it sounded like her throat had constricted around the word, making it painful for her to utter. Despite everything that Cora had done to her – abused her, killed her lover – it seemed she apparently still held love for her. It was something Emma couldn't understand, but then again, when she had abusive parental figures, it was just in the foster system; people that were in and out of her life in the blink of an eye. Cora was a constant in Regina's life that, at the end of the day, seemed to conflict her feelings about what she had been subjected to.
"So who did you…?" Emma began, until she ran through the last option she had. "Your father?"
Henry Mills' crypt was in Storybrooke though, so Emma had assumed he had died here. But maybe she just brought him over, maybe—
"It isn't as though I wanted to," Regina told her, still sounding a little choked up through her defensive tone. "I loved my father, despite a part of me resenting him for never saving me from my mother. He was still a kind man, but I was… I was miserable, Emma. I hated my life, I hated myself. I was on this never ending quest for vengeance that seemed like it would never be sated unless I did something of great magnitude and even then… even after I cast the dark curse, it didn't make anything better. Maleficent had been right."
"Right about what, exactly?" Emma asked, her conflicting feelings of horror over Regina killing her own father and the instinctual jealousy about hearing about the woman's past lover causing her voice to become strained. She didn't want to think about either.
Regina sighed heavily, leaning against the desk as she looked out the far window. "She told me that casting the curse would leave a hole in my heart," she told her softly. "A void that could never be filled. I didn't—I couldn't believe her, because that was it; that was my last chance, my only chance to finally be happy. I had to take it, no matter the cost, as it was either that… or give up entirely."
The way Regina said those last words caused an uncomfortable feeling to twist in Emma's gut, as it sounded more like she had been preparing herself for death rather than admitting her defeat in her war against Snow White. Regardless of knowing how unhappy Regina had been, and regardless of knowing that she had once been borderline-suicidal in her own frantic desperation for happiness at one point, Emma still hated hearing about it; it made her heart hurt.
"Regina, do you think… I mean, you said the curse left 'a hole in your heart'," Emma began, trying to think logically instead of emotionally right now, as she found that might be the only way she could ever get through this conversation. "Do you think that might be… why you're cursed? If you are, I mean."
"No," Regina told her, shaking her head as she took a shuddered inhale of breath, trying to get a hold of her own emotions. Tears had been prickling the back of her eyes since the beginning, but as of yet she hadn't allowed them to fall. "Should that be the case, then that void would have dissipated when the curse broke; it was a part of the original curse, therefore it could never conflict with it."
Well, it had been a theory, at least.
"All magic comes with a price, Emma," Regina told her, sounding regrettable about it. "That emptiness that I feel… it seems that was it."
"Yeah but, you ended up… I mean, you killed your dad," Emma rationalized. "You killed 'the thing you loved the most'; shouldn't that have been the price?"
Regina just shrugged lifelessly as she sighed. Apparently, it had been so long ago that it didn't even really matter to her anymore; she was just unhappy, and that was that. Emma thought that was crap, as obviously the thing she loved the most should have been a big enough price, but in the end, what did she know? Magic was about as foreign to her as Japanese.
Still, it didn't seem right.
Silence washed between the two women for a moment, before something Regina said nagged at Emma so much that she had to voice it. "So… when you say that you feel empty… it's—is it like a constant? Even with… I mean, even with me and Henry, you…?"
"I love both of you," Regina told her softly, although she sounded so very sad when she said that. "Of course I do, but something has always felt… off; as though a part of me is incomplete, and until I find that part of myself, I'll never be able to truly feel content with the love that I feel and receive. Almost as though all of it is a dream that I'm constantly afraid I'm going to wake up from, which makes me fear getting too attached to it."
"Have you ever thought that maybe you just have depression?" Emma ventured, as it sounded as though Regina's brain was doing this to herself. "Cause there are pills for that."
Regina gave her a disbelieving look, like she was stupid for even asking that, when wouldn't it be plausible? Maybe it was too 'real world' a problem for Regina to fathom, but they were in the real world now anyway, so why couldn't it be a factor?
"It's the curse," she insisted. "It's the price."
"You were unhappy even before the curse, Regina—"
"It's different!" Regina exclaimed, sounding frustrated that Emma would even pursue this when she believed she had all the answers she needed. "It feels different; please just believe me when I tell you that, because it's far too complicated to explain."
Emma sighed, relenting with a quiet, "Fine." She didn't want to argue; they had a lot of things to talk about tonight, and whether or not Regina should see a mental health professional on the regular was not one of them, no matter how inclined Emma was to believe that they probably both could do with a hefty dose of antipsychotics.
Silence fell over the room again as Emma turned away from Regina and looked into the fire. There was a question she was burning to ask, and yet at the same time didn't want to at all, as she feared the answer. But she had to know, didn't she? That was… that was the point of all this; for her to know everything. For her to try to understand everything, no matter how difficult it may be.
Gathering up her courage, and bracing herself for an answer she didn't want to hear, Emma finally spoke. Her voice was soft, hesitant; afraid. "How many people have you killed, Regina?"
Regina sucked in a sharp breath. It seemed she too had been waiting for this question, yet was afraid to answer it as much as Emma was afraid to hear the answer. "Personally, or…?"
"I… I don't know," she admitted quietly. "Dozens, perhaps. It was so long ago."
Emma closed her eyes and released a long breath, placing her fingers on her temple as she tried to process that. "And indirectly?" she asked, although she probably didn't want to know that either.
"Hundreds, at the very least," Regina told her, sounding so terribly ashamed about that; at least now, after all these years, in front of her. "But you have to understand, Emma; it was a different time, a different place. I was fighting a war, so of course my soldiers had to—"
"No, trust me, I get that your life was like a freaking episode of 'Game of Thrones' or whatever, but it's just—it's hard to imagine, you know? Dictating and ruling over everyone, I get; I saw you as Mayor, but leading an army…?"
"As Dr. Hopper said," Regina responded, her voice low and eyes downcast as she found it so very hard to look at the woman who was meant to be interrogating her. "Perhaps what I've needed is someone who cannot picture me ever doing such a thing."
Emma fell silent, her lips pursing into a thin line as she looked over at the woman across the room. She felt guilty then, even for dwelling on these types of things, because she understood what it was like to always be defined by your past. As a foster child, she was labeled as a bad kid before she even did anything to deserve the definition. And as an adult, once anyone found out about her previous crimes and her stint in jail that resulted in a child being born behind bars, she was viewed like a second class citizen; someone to look down on, someone to be wary of, despite the fact that she had done nothing wrong since she got out of jail.
Emma had always hated it, and now she was doing the same thing to Regina. Quite frankly, it made her feel like an asshole.
"I'm sorry," Emma apologized as she looked over at the brunette, who still wouldn't meet her eyes. "I know… I really do know that you're different now, Regina; and I swear to you I'm never going to see you as the Evil Queen because I have no idea who she really was, and I'm glad for that. But if we're gonna do this, if we're… if we're gonna try to make this work, then I should know about this stuff, shouldn't I? Just as much as you should know stuff about me."
Regina's gaze finally settled on hers, but the corners of her eyes crinkled in confusion. "You wish to tell me about… your past?"
No – in fact, there was a lot of stuff about Emma's past that she never wanted to bring up again, and would prefer to let die in the deep recesses of her memory – but if she was forcing Regina to go through this, shouldn't she go through the same? Relationships were a two way street; a fact that unfortunately, they both have had a very hard time learning. One of them was always on a pedestal above the other, reaping what they were owed for the transgressions against them, but where the hell had that ever gotten them? Here?
Emma didn't want to be here anymore.
"Yeah," she answered, leaning her head against the side of the armchair as she looked up at the other woman. "I mean, if you want to know. It's only fair, right?"
Regina's eyebrows rose in surprise, followed by the corners of her lips turning up into a gentle smile. Maybe, finally, they were doing something right. Emma nodded her head towards the chair next to her. "Come on, sit down," she told her, figuring if they're evening the playing field right now, then they should probably feel like equals in other ways. "We're probably gonna be doing this until Henry gets back, so… you know, might as well be comfortable."
She kept her voice light and shrugged, like it made no difference either way, but Regina could see right through that, and for once Emma was glad. She knew Regina felt ostracized in Storybrooke, but she didn't have to with her. Even if this conversation was difficult, there wasn't a reason for them to be separated like this; all it did was further the lack of self-worth that they both – although Regina especially – constantly struggled with. Emma didn't want that.
For once, she wanted them to get better.
And so when Regina finally crossed the room and sat down next to her, Emma returned the woman's gentle smile with one of her own, and finally started to share some of her own secrets that she had kept buried for far too long from the one person she knew she could actually trust them with.